New York City could be considered the quintessential American city, known for, among other things, its sweeping skyscrapers and signature skyline. Turns out one of those skyscrapers isn't so American after all.
Close to the Rockefeller Center, on Fifth Avenue, stands a 36 story "giant" once known as the Piaget Building. U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest has ordered a seizure and sale of the building on account of its ties to the Iranian government.
The infraction cited was the building's co-owners' direct assistance to the Iranian government, which breaches the International Emergency Economic Powers Act as well as U.S. money laundering regulations.
Preet Bharara, the federal prosecutor working the case, says that Assa Corporation, one of the co-owners of the building, is a front for the Iranian government. Assa Corporation allegedly launders money for Bank Melli, which is essentially a front for the government of Iran.
Having managed the building and a charity on behalf of the Iranian government, the other co-owner, known as the Alavi Foundation, is also believed to be operated by Iran. Assa Corporation and the Alavi Foundation are believed to have given Bank Melli as much as $39 million from rental income during an eight year period, stretching from 1999 through 2007.
"There is a far broader violation - one that involves not simply an unknowing and innocent provision of services to Iran, but providing those services to assist Iran by shielding and concealing Iranian assets," Forrest wrote in her summary ruling for seizure of the building.
USA Today reported a statement by the U.S. Justice Department stating the judgment "paves the way for the largest-ever terrorism-related forfeiture."
The Alavi Foundation has made a statement saying that they will appeal the ruling on the grounds that they "disagree with the court's analysis of the facts and the law. The Foundation was ready for trial and is disappointed that it did not have the opportunity to rebut the Government evidence before a jury."