In 2009, federal prosecutors charged that the Alavi Foundation was a front group for the Iranian government and violated U.S. law by transferring rental income from its properties to Iran’s Bank Melli, which was sanctioned in 2007 for supporting the Iranian nuclear program.
Those properties included a 36-story office building on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan worth $1 billion owned by the Alavi Foundation along with the Assa Corporation. Other properties included Islamic centers comprising schools and mosques in New York City, Maryland, California, Texas and Virginia.
A suit was later brought against the Alavi Foundation and the Assa Corporation by survivors of Iranian-regime terror attacks. In 2017, a New York court ruled the U.S. government could seize the Manhattan skyscraper from the Alavi Foundation. (The court concluded the foundation knew and helped hide the fact that the Assa Corporation was also a front for the Iranian government.)
The decision was overturned by an appeal’s court later that year saying the buildings did not qualify as being owned by Iran under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act: “Given the lack of evidence demonstrating Iran’s day-to-day control of Alavi, we conclude, as a matter of law, that defendants cannot be deemed Iran’s alter egos.”
The building on Fifth Avenue was built in the 1970s on land owned by the Pahlavi Foundation, a non-profit corporation formed in New York by then Iranian leader Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
Pahlavi was overthrown in the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran and the foundation morphed into the Alavi Foundation, which was tasked with promoting Shiite Islam and Persian culture and the Iranian regime in the U.S.
The Alavi Foundation continues to fund both Islamic and non-Islamic institutions across North America. Here are 10 Islamic groups in the U.S. the foundation has funded since 2014:
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