American victims of Iranian-sponsored terror may soon realize some degree of financial compensation as the result of a legal settlement announced in New York Thursday. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said the agreement covers judgments in 20 cases, and fully resolves 19 of them.
The U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan filed suit in 2008 against the Alavi Foundation, alleging the foundation was a money laundering front for the Iranian government. Certain properties within the U.S., including a skyscraper at 650 Fifth Avenue that may be worth more than $500 million, were subject to seizure and forfeiture by the U.S. government, the lawsuit claimed. Last September, the federal judge hearing the case ruled the Alavi Foundation and a collateral corporation knowingly served as fronts for the Iranian government.
On March 28, the judge ruled that several properties, including 650 Fifth Avenue, and bank accounts linked to the Alavi Foundation were subject to forfeiture. The other properties are Islamic centers in Queens, New York, Maryland, Virginia, Texas, and California. They include the Islamic Institute of New York, Islamic Education Center of Washington, Islamic Education Center of Houston and the Qoba Foundation in Carmichael, Cal.
In the March 28 ruling, the court found that the Alavi Foundation's claim that several of its properties were used for religious and educational purposes were without merit. the government sought to recover expenditures linked to the Alavi Foundation which took place from 1996 to 2008. The forfeiture amounts for each listed property group:
Queens - $5,337,336.23
Maryland - $ 995,119.68
Texas - $ 186,900.00
Virginia - $ 74,478.17
California - $ 14,801.57
The Islamic Education Center of Houston filed a separate "innocent owner" motion before the court, presumably seeking to preserve some degree of control and ownership over the institution. A hearing on that matter is scheduled next month.
The court ordered full forfeiture of the building at 650 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.