650 Fifth Avenue
The building was designed by John Carl Warnecke & Associates for the Pahlavi Foundation, a nonprofit organization run by the then-Shah of Iran, Muhammad Reza Pahlavi, “to pursue Iran’s charitable interests in the U.S.”. After the Iranian revolution in 1979, the Islamic Republic of Iran sought to take control of the Shah’s property, including the assets of the Pahlavi Foundation, which was renamed the Alavi Foundation.
Two of the tenants who leased space at 650 Fifth Avenue included Ivan F. Boesky, the infamous “greed-is-good” Wall Street speculator who was convicted of insider trading in 1987. And the Marc Rich & Company, Pahlavi, from Marc Rich, the billionaire oil trader. His invention of the spot oil market which made his fortune and changed the world economy; his lucrative and unpublicized dealings with Ayatollah Khomeini’s Iran, war-ravaged Angola, and apartheid South Africa; his quiet cooperation with the Israeli and U.S. governments (even after he was indicted for tax fraud by Rudy Guiliani) and near-comical attempts by U.S. officials to kidnap him illegally. Marc Rich fled to Zug, Switzerland while under indictment on charges of fraud and illegal trading with Iran, among other charges and died 2013. Most recently, Joe Biden's brother James Biden, and also his son, Hunter Biden, have been conducting business out of the 17th floor of the building.
In December 2008, the Asset Forfeiture Unit and Terrorism and National Security Unit of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York sought to seize 40 percent ownership in the building after it charged that Bank Melli of Iran owns that percentage of the building in violation of the sanctions against Iran. The other 60 percent of the building is owned by the Alavi Foundation — the Bonyad that is successor to the Pahlavi Foundation.
Bank Melli had originally financed it with a $42 million loan in 1978.
According to the U.S. government, the Alavi Foundation transferred 35 percent interest in the building to a shell company Assa Company Limited, which had just one employee, in exchange for Bank Melli officially cancelling the loan. However, the shell company officially registered in Jersey, was reported to be owned by Bank Melli.
In 2012 the owners hired CBRE Group to overhaul the building and lease space and give the appearance that Iran no longer had ties to the building. The new group spent $11 million renovating the building lobby and elevators.
In September 2013 United States District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge Katherine B. Forrest ruled "based on the uncontroverted record evidence, Assa was (and is) a front for [Iran's first national bank] Bank Melli, and thus a front for the government of Iran" and thus Alavi should forfeit for the property. Alavi indicated it would appeal the decision.
- 650 Fifth Avenue profile - Emporis.com - Retrieved March 4, 2009
- Susan Schmidt, Steve Stecklow, John R. Emshwiller: Stanford Had Links to a Fund Run by Bidens, The Wall Street Jornal, Feb. 24, 2009
- Kessler, Glenn. "U.S. Links Iranian Bank To Fifth Avenue Building". The Washington Post.
- United States Files Civil Forfeiture Action Against Assa Corporation's Interest in Manhattan Office Tower - U.S. Press Release - PR Newswire - December 17, 2008
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