The United States is seeking the forfeiture of a minority interest in the office tower 650 Fifth Avenue at 52nd Street, alleging the company which owns the share is illegally transferring money to Iran, according to the office of the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
The U.S. government is suing Assa Corporation, to turn over its 40 percent interest in the 36-story, 336,000-square-foot building, because the government claims the company is secretly controlled by an Iranian bank, Bank Melli, prosecutors said. The building is owned by the 650 Fifth Avenue Company, which is 40 percent owned by Bank Melli through Assa Corporation and another entity, Assa Company Limited. The other 60 percent of the building is owned by the Alavi Foundation.
The civil forfeiture complaint was filed in Manhattan federal court today.
According to a 1995 law, no goods or services can be transferred to Iran or its government without an export license from the Department of Treasury.
In 1999, Bank Melli was identified by the U.S. as owned and controlled by the Iranian government.