Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani
Former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has reportedly died aged 82. Reuters

Former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has died aged 82, local media has said.

Ayatollah Rafsanjani, currently the chairman of Iran's Expediency Council, was admitted to hospital in northern Tehran after suffering a heart attack on Sunday (8 January).

The state-run Irinn network said Rafsanjani had "passed away after a lifetime of fighting and constant efforts in line with fulfilling the goals of Islam and the revolution".

He was a widely known figure and veteran of Iranian politics, having been president for eight years from 1987. He then ran again in 2005, where he lost to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

He was described as a "shrewd realist and an influential apparatchik," according to a 2013 BBC profile.

"He is still a powerful figure in Iranian politics as he heads one of the regime's most powerful bodies - the Expediency Council, which adjudicates disputes over legislation," the report stated.

It added he was openly critical of the Iranian government through the years, as he argued for greater political freedoms and the release of political prisoners.

He is not without his share of controversy, however. After he was featured in the Millionaire Mullahs section of the Forbes Rich List in 2003, he was accused of using his political connections to amass personal wealth for himself and his family.

Forbes reported: "The 1979 revolution transformed the Rafsanjani clan into commercial pashas.
"One brother headed the country's largest copper mine; another took control of the state-owned TV network; a brother-in-law became governor of Kerman province, while a cousin runs an outfit that dominates Iran's $400 million pistachio export business; a nephew and one of Rafsanjani's sons took key positions in the Ministry of Oil; another son heads the Tehran Metro construction project (an estimated $700 million spent so far).

"Today, operating through various foundations and front companies, the family is also believed to control one of Iran's biggest oil engineering companies, a plant assembling Daewoo automobiles, and Iran's best private airline (though the Rafsanjanis insist they do not own these assets)."

Rafsanjani also has a close relationship with current president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani.

Rouhani was reportedly seen in at Tehran's Shohada Hospital shortly before the death was announced. A crowd is also said to have gathered at the hospital after the announcement.