Gov't Seeks to Forfeit 4 Mosques
I'm not sure why the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York chose to amend the Government's forfeiture complaint after 11 months to include four mosques around the country. (Press release here.)
The complaint was filed in December, 2008, seeking to forfeit assets of the Alavi Foundation and Assa Corp., including a NY office building at 650 5th Avenue (which houses Piaget) which the Government alleges are fronts for Iran and tied to money laundering. The Government says the non-profit foundation sent money to the Iran's Bank Melli. The Treasury Dept. in March said Bank Melli is a fundraiser for Iran's nuclear program.
Today, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara issued a press release and made a big deal out of the amended complaint, which added four mosques as assets it is seeking to forfeit. More on that here. [More...]
Does this really have to do with Iran? Or does it have to do with the fact that Alavi filed a motion to dismiss the complaint, and last week, the Government filed its response, and the court hasn't yet ruled. I haven't read the Amended Complaint yet (hours after the press release, it still wasn't on file on PACER) but I'm wondering whether the Government is adding assets with new theories to defeat the motion to dismiss.
The media is focusing on the First Amendment aspect of seizing mosques. The Government is focusing on money laundering. They haven't actually been seized, and will not be before the lawsuit is decided. As the U.S. Attorney's spokesman said:
"No action has been taken against any tenants or occupants of those properties," said Yusill Scribner, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan. "As was the case with the underlying complaint filed in December 2008 against Assa Corporation's ownership interest in 650 Fifth Avenue, the tenants and occupants remain free to use the properties as they have before today's filing. There are no allegations of any wrongdoing on the part of any of these tenants or occupants."
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