The Justice Department has conducted the biggest seizure of terrorism-related assets in its history, confiscating a 36-story office building in Manhattan from an Iranian straw company.
A district court ruled on Tuesday that the office building’s owners, the Alavi Foundation and Assa Corp., were “shielding and concealing Iranian assets” in violation of U.S. sanctions on Iran.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in press release: “The Judge’s opinion upholds what was the contention of this office from outset: ‘Assa was (and is) a front for Bank Melli, and thus a front for the Government of Iran.'”
The building, at 650 Fifth Avenue, was built in the 1970s by a foundation linked to Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. The Iranian government took over the building following the 1979 Islamic Revolution and since then it has been owned by a variety of banks and shell corporations, according to the Dept. of Justice.
The ruling allows the U.S. to seize bank accounts and other properties belonging to the building’s owner, and also, possibly, use the proceeds to compensate victims of Iranian-sponsored terrorism.