New York, NY, United States (4E) – A federal judge has authorized the U.S. government to seize a Manhattan building that prosecutors said was owned by entities controlled by the Iranian government.
The ruling of Manhattan Federal Judge Katherine Forrest on Monday makes the 36-storey 650 Fifth Avenue building the government’s largest terrorism-related forfeiture, according to Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Commercial real estate appraiser Dan Fasulo estimates the leasing rate in the district at $2,000 per square foot giving the 380,000-square foot building a face value of $760 million.
Bharara said Tuesday the proceeds of the sale of the building will serve as compensation for American victims of Iranian-sponsored terrorism.
The Alavi Foundation, which owns 60 percent of the property, is planning to appeal the verdict.
Prosecutors had sought the forfeiture of the building in 2008 claiming that owners Alavi Foundation and Assa Corporation violated antii-money laundering laws and sanctions against Iran. The Assa Corporation is allegedly a front of an Iranian bank to which rental income was wired to.
The Alavi is also linked to Bank Melli, a state-owned bank in Iran, but evidences were destroyed by the foundation’s former president, who pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in 2009.
A court-appointed monitor currently operates the building pending the resolution of the case.
The U.S. Department of Treasury has imposed a series of economic sanctions against Iran starting 1987 in response to Tehran’s support for international terrorism and its alleged development of nuclear weapons. The sanctions ban Americans from trading with Iran and participating in Iranian oil businesses. Iran-linked fund transfers to and from non-Iranian foreign banks are also outlawed.