Late this afternoon the federal government move to seize the assets of the Alavi Foundation, a “charitable front” for Iranian terror activities.
According to Discoverthenetworks, The Alavi Foundation claims that its goals are 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.”
The Alavi Foundation owns numerous properties in the United States, including a 36-story New York City office complex worth an estimated $135 million; 20 acres of prime development land in Catharpin, Virginia; and four “Islamic Education Centers” in Potomac (Maryland), Queens (New York), Houston (Texas), and Carmichael (California).
Former FBI official Oliver Revell has stated that the Alavi Foundation is “a front organization for the Iranian regime that is engaged in covert intelligence activity on the part of a hostile foreign government.” That intelligence consists, in part, of monitoring Iranian dissidents in the U.S. by means of technological espionage. David Cohen of the New York Police Department intelligence division says the Alavi Foundation is “totally controlled by the government of Iran” and “funds a variety of anti-American causes” including the Potomac Center and other mosques. U.S. intelligence officials characterize Alavi as a vehicle through which the Iranian regime “keeps tabs on Iranians [in the United States], obtains data about U.S. technology, promotes Tehran’s views on world affairs, provides gathering places for pro-Iran activists, and channels money to U.S. academics to gain a friendly reading on Iran.”
Today the government moved against the organization:
The U.S. today filed a new complaint in the 2008 lawsuit. The original case, which sought to seize the interest in the building held by ASSA Co., a company based in the U.K.’s Channel Islands, claimed the Iranian government’s Bank Melli co-owned the building through ASSA.
The new complaint seeks to seize the Alavi Foundation’s interest in 650 Fifth Avenue as well, along with accounts and property [Mosques] the Alavi Foundation owns in New York, Maryland, Virginia, Texas and California.
“The Alavi Foundation has effectively been a front for the government of Iran,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement. “For two decades, the Alavi Foundation’s affairs have been directed by various Iranian officials, including Iranian ambassadors at the United Nations, in violation of a series of U.S. laws.”
The foundation, which has offices in New York, didn’t immediately return a call for comment.
Last year, the president of the foundation, Farhsid Jahedi, was arrested and accused by U.S. prosecutors of destroying documents. The case is pending. Jahedi denies the charges.
The Alavi Foundation is a successor to one created in the 1970s by the late Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. Pahlavi was overthrown as that country’s leader in 1979. The building was constructed in 1979 by the Pahlavi Foundation, a nonprofit group set up by the Shah.
Iran, the world’s second-biggest holder of oil and natural- gas reserves, is subject to various U.S. sanctions over the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
The real question is can the Government seize the Mosques?
It is extremely rare for U.S. law enforcement authorities to seize a house of worship, a step fraught with questions about the First Amendment right to freedom of religion.
The action against the Shiite Muslim mosques is sure to inflame relations between the U.S. government and American Muslims, many of whom are fearful of a backlash after last week’s Fort Hood shooting rampage, blamed on a Muslim American soldier.
Does the President even realize that this can upset Shiite Muslims around the world? Maybe he can blame Bush. Or do what his advisers do, blame the Jews that control foreign policy.
The mosques and the office tower will remain open while the forfeiture case works its way through court in what could be a long process. What will happen to them if the government ultimately prevails is unclear. But the government typically sells properties it has seized through forfeiture, and the proceeds are sometimes distributed to crime victims.
There were no raids Thursday as part of the forfeiture action. The government is simply required to post notices of the civil complaint on the property.
Prosecutors said the Alavi Foundation, through a front company known as Assa Corp., illegally funneled millions in rental income back to Iran’s state-owned Bank Melli. Bank Melli has been accused by a U.S. Treasury official of providing support for Iran’s nuclear program, and it is illegal in the United States to do business with the bank.
Government officials have long suspected the foundation was an arm of the Iranian government; a 97-page complaint details involvement of several top officials in foundation business, including the country’s deputy prime minister and ambassadors to the United Nations.
“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,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.
The skyscraper, known as the Piaget building, was erected in the 1970s under the shah of Iran, who was overthrown in 1979. The tenants include law and investment firms and other businesses.
The sleek, modern building, last valued at $570 million to $650 million in 2007, has served as important source of income for the foundation over the past 36 years. The most recent tax records show the foundation earned $4.5 million from rents in 2007.
Rents collected from the building help fund the centers and other ventures, such as sending imprisoned Muslims in the U.S. educational literature. The foundation has also invested in dozens of mosques around the country and supported Iranian academics at prominent universities.
If federal prosecutors seize the skyscraper, the Alavi Foundation would have almost no way to continue supporting the Islamic centers, which house schools and mosques. That could leave a major void in Shiite communities, and hard feelings toward the FBI.
Legal scholars who specialize in religious liberty issues said they know of only a few cases in U.S. history in which law enforcement authorities have seized a house of worship. Marc Stern, a religious-liberty expert with the American Jewish Congress, called such cases “extremely rare.”
Is the President finally getting tough against terror or is the a cynical attempt to blunt the criticism he has been getting for his lack of decisiveness in the war against
terror Man Made disasters.