19 September 2013

The law can have teeth - sometimes

A US Federal Judge has ordered a part-Iranian-owned office block on 5th Avenue (Manhattan) to be seized for forfeiture, The Algemeiner reports here. The major reason is because "revenue from it was secretly funneled to a state-owned Iranian bank, in violation of a U.S. trade embargo."

It appears that "The U.S. government, on behalf of the Asset Forfeiture Unit and Terrorism and National Security Unit of the United States Attorney’s Office, argued that the official owner, the Alavi Foundation, was partnered with a shell company controlled by Bank Melli, the state-owned bank of Iran. Because the Iranian government has been designated by the U.S. as a sponsor of international terrorism, its assets in the U.S. can be seized by the government to fund restitution to terror victims.

Judge Forrest agreed that monetary transfers by the shell company, Assa Co., to Bank Melli violated money laundering statutes."

It actually gets better: "Commercial real estate appraiser Dan Fasulo said the office tower could fetch up to $2,000 a foot, as much as the nearby General Motors Building, and could reach a total sale value of $700 million." And the point is that the sums realised will be paid out to the families of victims of 9/11 and the raid on a US army base in Beirut where 243 US troops died. That's making a peace dividend from terror, I guess, if one can live with the irony.

The building is located at 5th and 52nd Street (know the location well - it's not far from MOMA, at West53rd) and leases retail space to Juicy Couture and Godiva. Fortunately for my personal peace of mind, while I'm a chocoholic, I don't buy Godiva chocolates.

By Brian Goldfarb.