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Federal Prosecutors Amend Civil Suit Against the Alavi Foundation

For over a quarter of a century, the US has maintained an extraordinarily tense political and economic relationship with Iran. On Thursday, November 12, 2009, the US District Attorney for the Southern District of New York amended a complaint against the Alavi Foundation and the Assa corporation The Alavi foundation is a charitable organization which claims that its activities are restricted to the promotion of Persian culture and Islam. The Assa Corporation operates out of the UK and is wholly owned by representatives of the Iranian Melli bank. The area in dispute is a thirty-six story building owned by the Alavi foundation, at 650 Fifth Avenue in the heart of Manhattan.

The complaint originally filed on December 17, 2008, sought forty percent of that was owned by only the Assa Corporation. The US now seeks all of the rights to the property due to both companies’ alleged violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and several Executive Orders that date back to the time of the Iranian Revolution. The complaint alleges that the companies acted in an elaborate scheme to avoid paying federal taxes for years. Amongst other claims the complaint asserts that Alavi board member appointments were directed by the Iranian government. It also states that Iranian ambassadors to the UN have had a heavy presence at board meetings. Prosecutors also have evidence that the companies have been pumping substantial rent money from the premisis into Bank Melli, which is both owned and operated by the Iranian government. This amended complaint comes at a time of especially heightened tension between the US and Iran due to an overall concern about Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

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