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U.S. Can Seize 650 Fifth Ave. From Iranian Owners, Sell To Pay 9/11 Victims

650 Fifth Ave. in New York

A jury has ruled that the U.S. federal government has the right to seize 650 Fifth Ave. from its majority Iranian ownership.

Iranian-based charity The Alavi Foundation has owned 60% of the building with Assa Corp., which has direct connections to the Iranian government, since 1989. The government sanctioned Iran for sponsoring terrorism in 1995, and after nearly 10 years of legal proceedings, a jury found that Assa was still connected to the Iranian government and thus illegally held ownership of property on U.S. soil, the New York Times reports.

Though representatives for Alavi may still appeal this decision, if it holds, it will allow the government to seize control via civil forfeiture and sell the building. It has promised to give proceeds of such a sale to victims of Iranian-sponsored terrorist attacks, most notably 9/11.

The building at 650 Fifth Ave. could fetch as much as $1B, with its location in perhaps the richest part of Midtown and office tenants as high-profile as Nike.

Alavi claimed that it believed Assa to have been taken over by private owners after the 1995 sanctions, showing a series of letters wherein the foundation asked Assa for information and was rebuffed. But lawyers for the government claimed that such letters were fabricated to cover up the laundering of money from the building's revenue to the Iranian government.