The US government moved today to seize properties of Iran’s Alavi Foundation, including a Manhattan skyscraper and three mosques in New York, Maryland and Texas. The foundation is accused of illegal money transfer to Iran.
Alavi Foundation was established as Pahlavi Foundation during the shah’s government and its assets, including the 36-story office tower on Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, was taken over by the Islamic Republic after the revolution in Iran. The Foundation since has invested in further properties. A sister foundation, the Assa Corp., was co-owner of the skyscraper.
The US attorney for Southern district of New York today announced the filing of a civil complaint seeking forfeiture of the Alavi Foundation's properties, accusing the foundation of transferring money to Bank Melli of Iran which is owned and controlled by the government of Iran.
The complaint alleges that the properties were "involved in and were the proceeds of money laundering offenses," and that the owners violated the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, executive orders and US Department of Treasury regulations.
The complaint alleges that the Alavi Foundation has effectively been a front for the government of Iran.
"For two decades, the Alavi Foundation's affairs have been directed by various Iranian officials, including Iranian ambassadors to the United Nations, in violation of a series of American laws. The Alavi Foundation's former president remains under investigation for alleged obstruction of justice, and both the criminal and civil investigations are ongoing."
In a related development, President Obama said Thursday in a letter to Congress that the national emergency with respect to Iran that was declared in 1979 during the Iranian revolution has not ended.
"Our relations with Iran have not yet returned to normal, and the process of implementing the January 19, 1981, agreements with Iran is still under way," Obama wrote in an official "notice of continuation" required to extend the emergency status with Iran beyond the anniversary date of November 14.
"For these reasons, I have determined that it is necessary to continue the national emergency declared on November 14, 1979, with respect to Iran, beyond November 14, 2009."
UPDATE (15 November 2009): Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani said today that the seizure of the New York skyscraper and other Iranian assets show that President Obama is no better than his predecessor George W. Bush. Larijani's statement was followed by chants of "Death to America" among MPs in the chamber.