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Iranian Foundation Stripped Of Manhattan Skyscraper

A sign identifying 650 Fith Avenue, the Piaget Building in New York, USA

A US court has ordered that an Iranian government foundation’s midtown Manhattan skyscraper be confiscated.

According to Bloomberg, the case has been dubbed as the largest terrorism-related civil forfeiture in US history.

The building housed the Alavi Foundation, a charity organization, said to belong to the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The charges listed against the foundation include violation of US sanctions against Iran and engagement in money laundering.

The trial began on May 30 after the US government urged a jury to force the Alavi Foundation to give up majority ownership of its Manhattan skyscraper, arguing that it was a front controlled by the Iranian government.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Lockard told the New York federal court in closing arguments that testimony proved the Alavi Foundation had violated sanctions imposed in 1995.

The 36-storey building is just north of Rockefeller Center and St. Patrick's Cathedral. It would likely fetch hundreds of millions of dollars in a sale. It generated close to $39 million in rental income from 1999 until 2007 alone, according to the government's lawsuit.

Attorneys for Alavi say it isn't controlled by Iran. It owns 60 percent of a 36-storey office building near Rockefeller Center.

When the trial began, John Gleeson, arguing for Alavi, painted a different picture, focusing on the nonprofit's stated mission of promoting Islamic culture and providing social services.

The organization was founded as Pahlavi Foundation in the 1970s by then-Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. After the Iranian revolution of 1979, the new government took control of the foundation and changed its name to ‘Alavi Foundation’.

The US government plans to give the proceeds from a sale of the building and other properties to holders of over $5 billion in terrorism-related judgments against the government of Iran.

Lockard says Alavi violated sanctions by hiding Iran's control over the building and by supporting an Iran-controlled entity that owned 40 percent of the building.

The Islamic Republic of Iran has repeatedly denied having had any role in acts of terrorism and says it has no links with Alavi Foundation.