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Court OKs Forfeiture Of New York Building With Ties To Iran

The Piaget Building is seen on November 13, 2009 in New York.
Don Emmert
AFP/Getty Images
The Piaget Building is seen on November 13, 2009 in New York.

A decision by a federal judge paves the way for the forfeiture of a 36-story Manhattan building that the U.S. alleges is secretly owned and controlled by the government of Iran.

The court agreed with the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York that the owners are a front for the Iranian government and therefore in violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which restricts commerce with Iran.

In a press release, the Manhattan U.S. attorney said this would be the "largest-ever terrorism-related forfeiture," which would provide a "means of compensating victims of Iranian-sponsored terrorism."

The Wall Street Journal reports:

"The ruling by U.S. District Judge Katherine B. Forrest granted summary judgment in favor of the U.S. government's claims for the forfeiture of 650 Fifth Ave. The building, in a prime commercial section of midtown Manhattan just north of Rockefeller Center, was built in the late 1970s by a foundation set up by the former Shah Reza Pahlavi of Iran. The building has been long known as the Piaget building. ...

"A representative for the Alavi Foundation said the group plans to appeal the court's decision once final judgment is entered. 'We are obviously disappointed with the district court's decision granting partial summary judgment against the Alavi Foundation,' the representative said. 'We have reviewed the decision and disagree with the court's analysis of the facts and the law. The foundation was ready for trial and is disappointed that it did not have the opportunity to rebut the government evidence before a jury.'

"A summary judgment disposes of a case without trial. It is used when there is no dispute on the material facts of a case and a party is entitled to judgment."

The case goes back to late 2008. NPR's Mike Shuster reported on case back in 2009.

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Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.