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ALAVI FOUNDATION – IRANI AGENT IN U.S

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USA federal prosecutors, on Thursday 11/12/2009, have moved to seize four Mosques and a New York tower block, owned by a nonprofit Muslim organization, Alavi Foundation, with alleged financial ties to Iran. Alavi Foundation is the successor to a foundation created in the 1970s’ by the Shah of Iran.

The prosecutors filed a civil complaint in a US federal court seeking the forfeiture of more than $500m in assets of the Alavi Foundation and an alleged front company – Assa Corporation. Prosecutors say the foundation has been helping to illegally send money back to the Iranian government.

The assets include Islamic centers in New York City, Maryland, California and Houston, more than 100 acres of land in Virginia, and an office tower in New York. Iran’s mission at the United Nations has not yet responded to news of the prosecutors’ complaint.

The move could lead to deterioration in relations between the USA government and American Muslims. Members of the US Muslim community have already expressed concerns of a backlash after a deadly gun attack at the Fort Hood army base in Texas, which has been blamed on a Muslim soldier, Maj. Malik Hasan. The Mosques and the office building will stay open while the forfeiture case goes through court.

Prosecutors allege that the Alavi Foundation illegally funneled millions in rental income back to Iran’s state-owned Bank Melli, through a front company known as Assa Corporation.

Bank Melli has been accused by the USA Treasury of providing support for Iran’s nuclear program, which Washington says is aimed at building an atomic weapon. Iran has denied those claims and insists that its nuclear program is aimed at generating electricity (see – IRANIAN CAPACITY ). US government officials have long alleged that the Alavi Foundation was part of the Iranian government.

A 97-page complaint alleges that several senior Iranian officials are involved in the foundation, including the country’s deputy prime minister and ambassadors to the UN. “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,” Preet Bharara, a US attorney, said in a statement.

The New York office block, known as the Piaget building, was built in the 1970s, while the Shah of Iran was in power. Law and investment firms are among the companies using the building, which was valued at $570m to $650m in 2007.

The most recent USA tax records show the Alavi Foundation earned $4.5m from rental of the building’s offices in 2007. If the office tower is forfeited, the foundation would find it hard to maintain support for the Islamic centers, which houses schools and Mosques.

Farshid Jahedi, the president of the Alavi Foundation, was arrested, on 12/19/2008, in New York City on a criminal complaint of destroying documents related to Alavi Foundation’s relationship with Bank Melli Iran and the ownership of a Manhattan office building. Farshid Jahedi was released on bail and indicted on 05/06/2009 (see – IRANIAN COBWEBS ).

 

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