US can’t seize Manhattan tower allegedly owned by Iran: court

Federal judges find insufficient evidence that Iranian government owns 650 Fifth Ave
July 21, 2016 10:12AM

A federal appeals court ruled that the United States can’t seize a majority stake in office tower 650 Fifth Avenue due to “insufficient evidence” that it is owned by the Iranian government.

Nonprofit Alavi Foundation owns 60 percent of the tower, and critics have argued that it serves as a front for Tehran. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara once called the 36-story building “Iran’s slice of Manhattan.”

In 2014, federal prosecutors reached a deal to seize the tower based on financial sanctions imposed on Iran in 1995, and use any profit to pay off victims of Iran-sponsored terrorism, such as the 1983 bombing of U.S. army barracks in Beirut.  That agreement is now blocked. The U.S. could still seize a 40 percent stake in the tower owned by Iranian-controlled Assa Corporation, the New York Post reports. The building generates about $20 million a year in profits. In September of 2013, the tower, known as the “Piaget Building,” was valued at over $500 million.

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