Jurors in Manhattan federal court on Tuesday settled in for a weeks-long trial to decide the fate of a Manhattan office tower built for the former shah of Iran, which the US government is trying to seize for the benefit of people who have won terrorism-related court judgments against Iran.
The US government claims the nonprofit Alavi Foundation, the majority owner of 650 Fifth Avenue, knowingly acted on behalf of the government of Iran, violating US sanctions.
In an opening statement on Tuesday, Assistant US Attorney Martin Bell told jurors that Alavi knew that its co-owner, Assa Corp, was backed by Iran’s state-controlled Bank Melli and was an agent of Iran’s government. He urged jurors to hold Alavi “accountable” for funneling money to Iran and providing other services, Reuters reported.
John Gleeson, arguing for Alavi, painted a different picture, focusing on the nonprofit’s stated mission of promoting Islamic culture and providing social services. The organization was founded in the 1970s by the former king, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. The 36-story building would likely fetch hundreds of millions of dollars in a sale.