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Published On: Sun, Sep 27th, 2020

Hushang Ansary: the colorful character at the heart of the ENNIA-controversy

PHILIPSBURG – The bitter fight between insurance company ENNIA and its major shareholder Hushang Ansary has resulted in several court cases and there are more to come. From the 200-page petition attorneys Karina Keizer and Sabine Altena have filed with the court in Curacao on behalf of ENNIA emerges the picture of a man who hates criticism and who takes absolute power for granted. Loyalty and trust are more important than competency, according to Ansary, who once pointed out to ENNIA managers that “competence can be replaced.”

Ansary has been accused of being the architect of a complex of initiatives that robbed ENNIA of hundreds of millions of dollars which ultimately inspired the Central Bank to put the company under the rules of an emergency measure that ultimately sidelined the 94-year old Ansary. So who is the man at the center of this controversy?

That Ansary has a colorful career behind him is a bit of an understatement. Born in Ahvaz, Teheran in 1926 (on January 1 according to one source, in July of that year according to another one) he started out as a newspaper and magazine photographer in Teheran and England before he moved to Japan in 1954.

There Iran’s ambassador Abbas Aram brought him to the attention of Shah Reza Pahlavi. These days, Ansary’s political affiliation is with the Republican Party in the United States where he lives in Houston with his second wife. But back in the day he became involved with the Rastakhiz Party, the only legal party in Iran (called Persia at the time) during the regime of Shah Reza Pahlavi. Not surprisingly, the party won all available seats in parliament in 1975.

The Central Intelligence Agency marked Ansary as one of the seventeen members of the shah’s inner circle and considered him as a top choice to succeed Amiz Abbas Haveyda as prime minister. That did not happen: the appointment went to Jamshid Amouzegar and Ansary became the leader of the party’s constructionist wing that opposed Amezougar’s progressive policies.

All this obviously came to an end with the Iranian revolution in 1978. Ansary went to the United States where he had served as Iran’s ambassador from 1967 to 1969. Between 1971 and 1974 he had been Iran’s Minister of Tourism and Information and from 1974 to 1979 he held the position of Minister of Economic Affairs and Finance. He was also – for a year – the director of the National Iranian Oil Company.

With a resume like that it is little wonder that Ansary took an extremely authoritative approach to everything he undertook in the United States – and ultimately also in the Caribbean once he got hold of insurance company ENNIA.

He was the chairman of IRI International Corporation, a producer of drilling equipment for the oil industry) and in 2005 he bought Stewart and Stevenson (with money he took from ENNIA).

Ansary maintains close ties with the Republican Party, once rubbing shoulders with the likes of Henry Kissinger and Alexander Haig. In 2004 he was a member of the national finance committee for the presidential campaign of George W. Bush. In 2015 he donated $2 million to a super PAC that supported the presidential candidacy of Jeb Bush.

Ansary established Parman International as the main holding for his business ventures. Together with his wife he held 77 percent of the Parman-shares in 2018, according to the petition filed by Keizer and Altena. His daughter Nina, who lives in Los Angeles, held 16 percent, Frank Carlucci 4 percent, Bahram Ansary 2 percent and Abdallah Andraous 1 percent.

The attorneys note in their petition that Ansary was the principal recipient of dividends and other payments from ENNIA between 2006 and 2018. In the period 2006-2016 shareholders received at least $166 million, the petition states.

How did all this happen? According to the petition, Ansary ruled his companies with an iron fist. The minutes of a meeting with the managers of ENNIA in 2011 shed some light on his approach. The minutes are written by Gijsbert van Doorn, a now former chief executive officer and managing director at ENNIA.

The meeting in 2011 did not go well: Ansary pointed out that he considered the directors of ENNIA as middle management and he was upset that they had actually taken decisions. “Loyalty and trust are most important. Competence can be replaced,” Ansary said in that meeting according to the minutes.

“If need be he would place someone who was below us on our chair, pay them five times as much and then the problem was solved,” Van Doorn wrote in the minutes. “We were severely insulted on several occasions.”

Ansary also made clear in this meeting that he was the one to take investment-decisions and that the statutory directors of ENNIA had nothing to say in those matters.

The court petition contains yet another glaring example of how Ansary bought the loyalty of those close to him. Abdallah Andraous was Ansary’s right hand since 2006. “He initiated, edited and signed almost every approval Ansary gave for policy and daily tasks,” the petition states.

When Hurricane Irma caused for more than $2 million in damages to Andraous’ house in St. Maarten in September 2017, Ansary was right there to help him out: he bought an apartment in Paris for his most loyal associate. That sweetener came on top of the estimated 10.7 million guilders (close to $6 million) Andraous received between 2008 and 2018 for the functions he held in Parman, ENNIA and the National Investment Bank.

Most statements in this article stem from the petition Keizer and Altena have filed with the court in Curacao. Ansary and his attorney Richard Gibson Sr. are in the meantime contesting all allegations and the Central Bank’s emergency measure with personal attacks on Central Bank President José Jardim.

StMaartenNews.com will examine the alleged wrongdoings by Ansary and his associates further in subsequent articles.

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The ENNIA-debacle: How Ansary ignored all red flags
ENNIA and the theft of the century: these are the key players
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