US to seize New York skyscraper secretly owned by Iran

US to seize New York skyscraper secretly owned by Iran

NEW YORK CITY - The United States is set seize control of a midtown Manhattan skyscraper prosecutors claim is secretly owned by Iran, the justice department said Tuesday, though the ruling is to be appealed.

The seizure and sale of the 36-story building, in the heart of New York City on Fifth Avenue, would be "the largest-ever terrorism-related forfeiture," the statement added.

A federal judge ruled in favour of the government's suit this week, saying the building's owners had violated Iran sanctions and money laundering laws.

Manhattan Federal Prosecutor Preet Bharara said the decision upholds the justice department claims the owner of the building "was (and is) a front for Bank Melli, and thus a front for the Government of Iran."

Bharara said the funds from selling the building would provide "a means of compensating victims of Iranian-sponsored terrorism."

Prosecutors allege the building's owners, the Alavi Foundation and Assa Corporation, transferred rental income and other funds to Iran's state-owned Bank Melli.

Alavi also ran a charitable organisation for Iran and managed the building for the Iranian government, the statement said.

Built in the 1970s by a non-profit operated by the Shah of Iran - and financed with a Bank Melli loan - the building was expropriated by the new Iranian government after the 1979 revolution, prosecutors allege.

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