Federal prosecutors took steps today to seize four US mosques and a Fifth Avenue skyscraper owned by a nonprofit Muslim organization long suspected of being secretly controlled by the Iranian government. In what could prove to be one of the biggest counterterrorism seizures in US history, prosecutors filed a civil complaint in federal court seeking the forfeiture of more than $500 million in assets of the Alavi Foundation and an alleged front company.
The assets include Islamic centers in New York City, Maryland, California, and Houston, more than 100 acres of land in Virginia, and a 36-story office tower in New York. Prosecutors said the Alavi Foundation, through a front company known as Assa Corp., illegally funneled millions in rental income back to Iran's state-owned Bank Melli. Bank Melli has been accused by a US Treasury official of providing support for Iran's nuclear program, and it is illegal in the United States to do business with the bank.