On June 29, a jury in Manhattan found that a Fifth Avenue skyscraper was controlled by the Iranian government. A charity called The Alavi Foundation (Alavi), along with the other primary owner of the building, which was a shell company, were both proven to be controlled by Iran. The office building was thus determined to be in violation of U.S. sanctions against the country. The U.S. government has now won the right to seize the building, which is valued between $500 million and $1 billion, according to Quartz (quartz.com).
Joon H. Kim, the acting U.S. attorney in Manhattan, characterized the finding as representing “the largest civil forfeiture jury verdict and the largest terrorism-related civil forfeiture in U.S. history,” Bloomberg reports (Bloomberg.com).
In 2014, U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest ruled against Alavi and the other main owner. An appeal of this verdict then prompted prosecutors to further delve into Alavi’s background. The FBI, New York police, Internal Revenue Service, Manhattan district attorney’s office and Department of Justice were all involved in this most recent leg of the investigation into the 36-story building at 650 Fifth Avenue, which first began back in 2008.
These organizations uncovered documents and testimony relating to multiple shell companies’ and Alavi’s ties to the Iranian government. One letter of particular note was written by an Alavi director in 1991. It referenced directions from “the supreme leader” (Ayatollah Ali Khamenei) and referred to the U.S. as “the country of the Great Satan.”
Prosecutors proved that rent for building was eventually channeled into Bank Melli, which is owned by the Iranian government. “The fact that we allow individuals to hide behind US companies and not disclose who they are enables the Iranian government, or a terrorist network, or organized crime to hide [from law enforcement]…and potentially hurt US companies and citizens,” Stefanie Ostfield, deputy head of the U.S. office of anti-corruption NGO Global Witness, told Bloomberg.
Judge Forrest followed up on this recent jury decision by ruling that the estates of the victims of terrorist attacks sponsored by Iran were entitled to claim the proceeds of the government’s forfeiture actions. The government now has plans to sell this valuable property and to divert the majority of the proceeds to victims of Iran-sponsored attacks.
The Miller Firm represents hundreds of victims of the 1998 Embassy Bombings who received judgments against Iran and applauds the U.S. Government’s efforts to aid these victims, and other victims of terrorism, in obtaining compensation from Iran.
The Miller Firm is presently accepting clients who were injured or families who experienced terrible loss on September 11, 2011. Call 1-800-882-2525 and ask to speak to attorneys David Dickens, Michael Miller or Nancy Miller. They can be reached as well at [email protected].