Scorpion venom is one of the world’s most expensive liquids, with scientists paying as much as €15,000 a gramme for use in research for cancer and other diseases. Such prices have given rise to a boom in amateur scorpion-farming in countries such as Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, India, Pakistan – and Iran. But an Observers investigation found that, at least so far, international demand for amateur scorpion venom from Iran is zero.

Like many get-rich-quick schemes, it’s too good to be true. Iranian media estimate that tens of thousands of Iranians have paid to take classes in how to raise and breed scorpions, and “milk” them for their venom. Promoters point to astronomical prices on the international research market. But there’s a problem: scientists buy only tiny quantities and only from suppliers whose quality they trust.

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READ MORE: The scam leaving Iranians with thousands of scorpions on their hands