In re 650 Fifth Ave., 08 Civ. 10934 (KBF)

CourtUnited States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
Writing for the CourtKATHERINE B. FORREST
Decision Date18 April 2014
Docket Number08 Civ. 10934 (KBF)


08 Civ. 10934 (KBF)


Dated: April 18, 2014

and all member and related



This Opinion resolves five pending motions: (1) a summary judgment motion filed by several judgment creditor groups against defendants Assa Corp. and Assa Co. Ltd. (collectively "Assa"), the Alavi Foundation ("Alavi" or "the Foundation"), and 650 Fifth Avenue Company ("650 Fifth Ave. Co.") (ECF No. 869); (2) a summary judgment motion filed by the judgment creditors against Alavi to turn over seven properties and three bank accounts held solely in Alavi's name (ECF No. 950); (3) a summary judgment motion filed by the Government against Alavi to forfeit its interest in the seven Alavi-only properties (ECF No. 956); (4) a summary judgment motion filed by the government against Alavi to forfeit its interest in the three Alavi-only bank accounts (ECF No. 1075); and (5) a petition filed by Alavi pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 983(g) (ECF No. 1019).

First, the Greenbaum, Acosta, Beer, Kirschenbaum, Heiser, Havlish, Peterson, and Rubin judgment creditor groups1 have moved for summary judgment

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to turn over the building located at 650 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York ("the Building") and associated bank accounts—the assets at issue in the Court's Opinion & Order of September 16, 2013 (the "September 2013 Opinion")—under the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2002, Pub. L. No. 107-297, 116 Stat. 2322 ("TRIA"), and the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act ("FSIA"), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1330, 1602-11. (ECF No. 869.) That motion became fully briefed on October 11, 2013. (ECF Nos. 879, 938, 969.)

The judgment creditor plaintiffs have also filed a supplemental motion for summary judgment to turn over the seven properties and the three bank accounts owned in Alavi's name only, which the Court severed in the September 2013 Opinion, pursuant to TRIA and the FSIA. (ECF No. 950.) That motion became fully briefed on October 23, 2013. (ECF Nos. 977, 996.) On October 7, 2013, the Hegna judgment creditors filed a memorandum arguing that they are also entitled to turnover of all property owned by the defendants for largely the same reasons as those stated in the judgment creditors' motion. (ECF Nos. 954, 955.)

The Government has also filed a motion for summary judgment with respect to the same seven Alavi-only properties, seeking to forfeit the properties as traceable to violations of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act ("IEEPA") and traceable to property involved in money laundering. (ECF No. 956.) That motion became fully briefed on October 23, 2013. (ECF Nos. 979, 998.) The Government has also filed a motion for summary judgment to forfeit the three Alavi

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bank accounts. (ECF No. 1075.) That motion became fully briefed on January 29, 2014. (ECF No. 1086.)

For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS all four motions for summary judgment filed by the Government and the judgment creditors, and DENIES Alavi's petition pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 983(g).


A. Factual Background

The Court assumes familiarity with the facts underlying this action, particularly the facts described in the September 16 Opinion. See In re 650 Fifth Ave. & Related Props., No. 08 Civ. 10934 (KBF), 2013 WL 5178677, at *6-16 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 16, 2013) ("September 2013 Opinion"). The Court recites here only certain facts relevant to resolving the instant motions.

1. Facts Relevant to the Building at 650 Fifth Avenue

In 1973, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi formed the Pahlavi Foundation as a New York not-for-profit corporation. (Corrected Local Rule 56.1 Statement of Undisputed Facts ("Gov't 56.1 I") ¶ 1; McReynolds Decl. Ex. 1, ECF No. 687.)2 At the Shah's direction, the Central Bank of Iran, Bank Markazi, loaned the Pahlavi Foundation approximately $42 million in order to acquire 650 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York, and to construct the Building on the property. (Gov't 56.1 ¶ 2; McReynolds Decl. Exs. 2, 3; Am. Compl. ¶ 24; Alavi Ans. ¶ 24.) Bank Markazi

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loaned the $42 million through Bank Melli Iran, a bank wholly owned by the Iranian government, which in turn loaned the funds to the Foundation. (Gov't 56.1 I ¶ 3; McReynolds Decl. Ex. 3; Am. Compl. ¶ 24; Alavi Ans. ¶ 24.)

In 1979, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini ordered the formation of the Bonyad Mostazafan to manage property controlled by the revolutionary government. (Gov't 56.1 I ¶ 6; Lockard Decl. Ex. 1, at 1-3, ECF No. 686.) In 1980, the Pahlavi Foundation was renamed the "Mostazafan Foundation of New York" ("MFNY"). (Gov't 56.1 I ¶¶ 10-11; McReynolds Decl. Ex. 13.)

In July 1987, the Iranian Deputy Prime Minister and then-head of the Bonyad Mostazafan, Tahmasb Mazaheri, reported to the Prime Minister of Iran, Mir-Hussein Mousavi, about a tax situation relating to income generated by the Building. (Gov't 56.1 I ¶ 19; McReynolds Supp. Decl. Ex. 1.) Mazaheri discussed a potential solution to the tax issue with the Director General of Bank Melli, Majid Ghasemi, who promised to assist. (Gov't 56.1 I ¶ 21; McReynolds Supp. Decl. Ex. 1.) This solution called for the creation of an entity in New York that would own the Building and take responsibility for a Bank Melli loan, ultimately causing a transfer of $45 million to the "Islamic Republic of Iran Central Bank." (Gov't 56.1 I ¶ 20; McReynolds Supp. Decl. Ex. 1.) Mazaheri stated that this solution would "surely be beneficial to the Islamic Republic." (Gov't 56.1 I ¶ 21; McReynolds Supp. Decl. Ex. 1.)

In March 1989, Seyed Mohammad Badr Taleh, then the Managing Director of the Mostazafan Foundation of New York MFNY, proposed to Mazaheri that the

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MFNY lease the Building's retail space in order to avoid the tax. (Gov't 56.1 I ¶ 27; McReynolds Decl. Ex. 29.)

In May 1989, the MFNY, the Bonyad Mostazafan, and Bank Melli met in Iran to finalize an agreement for a partnership between Bank Melli Iran and the Foundation in New York. (Gov't 56.1 I ¶ 28; McReynolds Supp. Decl. Ex. 4.) At the meeting, it was decided that "Bank Melli Iran" would partner with "the New York Foundation." (Gov't 56.1 I ¶ 29; McReynolds Supp. Decl. Ex. 4.) To do so, Bank Melli Iran would create "two companies in Jersey Island," and one of those companies would "become partners with the New York Foundation via the other company." (Id.) It was also determined that "all proceedings should be made with the presence of an agent from Bank Melli Iran." (Id.)

In July 1989, the Mostazafan Foundation entered into an agreement with Assa to form a partnership called the 650 Fifth Avenue Company. (McReynolds Decl. Ex. 37.) In August 1989, Issa Shahsavar Khojasteh, an assistant director for the Bonyad Mostazafan, wrote to Mohammed Bagherian, then head of the Bonyad Mostazafan, to request that Bagherian "endorse the partnership" between Assa, which he stated "belongs to Bank Melli," and MFNY. (Gov't 56.1 I ¶ 30; McReynolds Decl. Ex. 31.)

The partnership between Assa Corporation and the Mostazafan Foundation was formed in October 1989. (Gov't 56.1 I ¶ 32; McReynolds Decl. Ex. 37.) In November 1989, Badr Taleh wrote to the General Director of Bank Melli to report that Assa Corp. was a partner in the ownership of the Building and that this

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arrangement would exempt Bank Melli from millions of dollars in taxes. (Gov't 56.1 I ¶ 34; McReynolds Decl. Ex. 111.) He also expressed his thanks to Mohammad Behdadfar, a member of Bank Melli's board, and to Mohammad Karjooravary, the president of Bank Melli's New York branch, because they had "truly done whatever possible to safeguard the interests of the Islamic Republic." (Id.)

In February 1990, Karjooravary described the 650 Fifth Ave. Co. partnership as intended to resolve tax issues related to the Building: he stated that the tax issue had been solved through the "efforts of the Foundation and bank officials in Tehran and New York." (Gov't 56.1 I ¶ 37; McReynolds Decl. Ex. 32.) A September 1990 telex describes a transfer of Assa (referred to as the "mother company") from indirect ownership by Bank Melli officials to ownership by Bank Melli itself. (McReynolds Decl. Ex. 109.)

In May 1991, Badr Taleh wrote a letter to the Ayatollah stating that Ambassador Kamal Kharrazi had told him that henceforth the Ambassador—not the Bonyad Mostazafan—would oversee the Foundation. (Gov't 56.1 I ¶ 63; McReynolds Decl. Ex. 80.) Badr Taleh also wrote, "[T]he Supreme Leader has made this decision with discernment, unique insight, and a thorough knowledge of all pertaining aspects." (Gov't 56.1 I ¶ 64; McReynolds Decl. Ex. 80.) Also that month, three of the Foundation's board members wrote to the Ayatollah that they would resign pursuant to instructions conveyed to them by Haj Mohsen Rafighdoost of the Bonyad Mostazafan, a representative of the Ayatollah. (Gov't 56.1 I ¶ 60;

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McReynolds Decl. Ex. 76.) That letter also stated that the "Foundation's interests . . . in truth belong[ed] to the people of Iran." (Id.)

In the 1990s, individuals with judgments against the Government of Iran filed civil lawsuits against the MFNY and the Bonyad Mostazafan. (Gov't 56.1 I ¶ 72; McReynolds Decl. Ex. 62.)

By August 1992, the MFNY had been renamed the "Alavi Foundation of New York."...

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