After previously filing forfeiture action on 650 Fifth Avenue, claiming it was owned by a company laundering money for Iranian terrorists, federal prosecutors have move to seize the 36-floor skyscraper in Midtown Manhattan as well as properties in Queens—including a mosque— owned by the Alavi Foundation. Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said, "The Alavi Foundation has effectively been a front for the government of Iran." said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who sued to grab more than $500 million in assets.
The NY Times reports, "The authorities accused the Alavi Foundation of spending millions of dollars to obtain and develop the properties, in violation of federal laws that ban trade with Iran... The prosecutors did not specify how much money they were seeking to be forfeited, but they said that the foundation had tried for years to hide its relationship with the government of Iran. The prosecutors described meetings between the Iranian ambassador to the United Nations and the foundation’s president. The two men met periodically, in a closed room, at the center in Queens, the complaint said."
However, Alavi's lawyers are fighting the move. According to the Daily News, "The Alavi Foundation's mission statement says it aims to promote interfaith harmony and the Persian language." One mosque goer said he and his fellow congregants don't talk politics, "When you bring it up, they shut down."
Alavi has a majority interest in 650 Fifth Avenue. The U.S. Attorney's office emphasized, "There are no allegations of any wrongdoing on the part of any of these tenants or occupants. The tenants and occupants remain free to use the properties as they have before today's filing."