Iranian billionaire Babak Zanjani has been sentenced to death for corruption, after been arrested in 2013 and accused of embezzling $2.8bn (£2bn).

One of the wealthiest men in his country, Zanjani is well known throughout the Islamic Republic, and was in 2012 named on both EU and US blacklists as someone who was helping Iran get around the trade restrictions placed on it during the sanctions era.

The businessman was managing director of the UAE-based Sorinet Group, and previously owned both football side Rah Ahan and Qeshm Airlines, along with overseeing a network of more than 60 companies including cosmetics, oil and finance businesses.

He had previously admitted to an Iranian magazine that he had arranged billions of dollars of oil deals through a network of countries, amassing a reported personal fortune of more than $10bn, The Independent said.

He had also reportedly said in interviews that he acted as a middleman who organised oil deals for then president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government, evading the sanctions in place and accumulating a great deal of wealth himself in the process.

He reportedly sold millions of barrels of oil for Iran, using a network of various countries to arrange deals, allegedly viewing his actions as heroic as he helped the country avoid sanctions.

But after Hassan Rouhani became president in 2013, Zanjani was accused of impropriety – likely as a result of Rouhani's announcement that he would tackle corruption on taking office – and was arrested in December that year.

Zanjani allegedly previously said the crippling sanctions were the reason he had failed to hand over $1.2bn he still owed to the government, BBC reported.

However, it is believed he owes the Iranian government more than twice that amount, with $2.7 billion of oil money reported to be due to the Islamic Republic from oil revenue amassed by Zanjani.

The multi-billionaire also believed to have amassed serious debts, casting into doubt his total net worth, and must repay money to the government in addition to his death penalty for the embezzlement charges, which he denies.