Claude Cartaginese

Feds Target Iranian Spy Ring

Posted on November 13 2009 3:00 am
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650 Fifth Avenue

In what is being described as perhaps the largest counterterrorism seizure in U.S. history, Fox News is reporting that federal prosecutors have taken steps to seize four mosques, along with other properties valued at over $500 million dollars, owned by the Alavi Foundation, an entity federal authorities have accused of being a front for Iran.

The properties include buildings in Maryland, California, Houston, 100 acres in Virginia and the prestigious Piaget Building, a skyscraper at 650 Fifth Avenue in New York City that was built in the 1970’s by the then Shah of Iran. It currently houses law firms and other businesses including investment firms. The Alavi Foundation earned $4.5 million in rents from the Piaget Building alone.

The Alavi Foundation manages the real estate as the surrogate and for the direct benefit of the Iranian government. The Foundation has been accused of illegally funneling millions of dollars in rental income from its properties to Bank Melli, Iran’s state-owned Bank, by using a front company. The U.S. Government has frozen the assets of Bank Melli for providing direct monetary support for Iran’s nuclear program, and it is illegal to do business with the bank in the United States.

In its 97-page complaint, the government has detailed charges that the Foundation, for the last 20+ years, has had involvement and business dealings with several top Iranian officials, including Iran’s deputy prime minister and its ambassadors to the United Nations. According to a statement by U.S. Attorneys:

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.

The Alavi Foundation, which claims that its sole purpose  is to “promote understanding and harmony among people of different religions”; “promote the study of the humanities, arts, and pure and applied sciences”; “giv[e] assistance to public charitable organizations during times of hardship and deprivation caused by war or natural disasters”; and “provid[e] financial assistance to not-for-profit organizations that are involved in the teaching of Islamic culture and the Persian language,” is in fact an organization which, according to the FBI, has been providing covert intelligence to the Iranian Government.

The New York Police Department’s intelligence division believes the Alavi Foundation is “totally controlled by the government of Iran” and “funds a variety of anti-American causes.”

The successful confiscation of the Alavi Foundation’s properties would be a major blow to Iran, shutting down a long functioning spy den and eliminating a major source of financing.

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