US Court Approves Seizure of Iran-Linked Manhattan Skyscraper: Report

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – A jury in New York on Thursday found that the US government may seize a Manhattan office building from a nonprofit foundation accused of violating US sanctions against Iran.

US Court Approves Seizure of Iran-Linked Manhattan Skyscraper: Report

The jury in a Manhattan federal court said the Alavi Foundation, majority owner of an office tower at 650 Fifth Avenue, knew that its partner and the building's minority owner, Assa Corp, was a front for Iran, and helped conceal the fact, Reuters reported.

Jurors claimed that the government had proven that the property was involved in or traceable to money laundering.

The government wanted to seize the 36-story building, which could be worth nearly $1 billion, to benefit people with legal judgments against Iran relating to alleged bombings and other attacks.

"In this trial, 650 Fifth Avenue’s secret was laid bare for all to see," said Acting US Attorney Joon Kim in Manhattan, whose office represented the government.

"On behalf of all of our clients, we are extremely pleased with the decision and the verdict handed down today," said James Bernard, a lawyer for the judgment holders.

"The Alavi Foundation is disappointed by today’s verdict and by the court’s decision in the related cases and is considering its options," said John Gleeson, a former federal judge who represented the foundation at trial.

Founded in 1973, the Alavi Foundation describes its mission as promoting the study of Persian and Islamic culture in the United States, and also funds schools and free clinics.

In 1989, Alavi entered into a partnership with Iran's state-controlled Bank Melli under which Alavi owned a majority share of the building, and the bank owned the rest through a subsidiary, Assa.

The case turned on whether Alavi knew that Assa was still owned by Bank Melli after the United States imposed sanctions on Iran in 1995.

Lawyers for the government argued that it did, but kept distributing rental income to Assa anyway, while working to conceal its ownership from US authorities.

Gleeson argued that the foundation was led to believe that Bank Melli was sold before the sanctions took effect.

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