It made headlines last week when federal prosecutors moved to seize assets of the Alavi Foundation, a New York-based nonprofit that is allegedly a front for the U.S.-sanctioned government of Iran. Sidelined in the excitement was another blockbuster aspect of this case: the alleged role of a series of Iranian ambassadors to the UN–including the current envoy, Mohammad Khazaee–in managing the affairs of the Alavi Foundation.
The allegations are made in an amended civil complaint filed by prosecutors last Thursday in Manhattan federal court. Broadly, the amended complaint describes Alavi as part of a web of Iranian government fronts, run for years almost entirely off millions in annual income generated by a 36-story office building on Fifth Avenue. This building was originally constructed by Iran in the 1970s, under the Shah. Prosecutors say that following Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution, ownership and control of the building and its income passed to the Islamic government, which is described in the amended complaint as running it via a nest of alleged fronts. These include a 40% share held by the New York-registered Assa Corporation, subject of the original December 2008 complaint, which prosecutors say is a front for Iran’s state-owned BMelli, blacklisted by Treasury in 2007 for its role in Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. The Alavi Foundation holds the remaining 60% majority interest in the building and has served as managing partner.