$2 billion in alleged Iranian assets frozen

WASHINGTON (JTA) — A U.S. federal court ordered $2 billion in alleged Iranian assets frozen, the largest such freeze since just after Iran’s 1979 revolution.

The funds, held in a Citibank account, were frozen 18 months ago as part of ongoing efforts by families of victims of the 1983 Hezbollah attack on the U.S. Marines barracks in Beirut to make good on $2.7 billion awarded in a lawsuit. The sealed order was revealed Saturday by The Wall Street Journal.

Luxembourg’s Clearstream Banking S.A. holds the Citibank account. There is no indication, the Journal said, that Citibank knew of allegations that Clearstream was banking the funds on behalf of Iran.

Luxembourg has some of the most secretive banking practices in Europe. The information linking Clearstream to Iran came from the U.S. Treasury, the Journal said.

The families are seeking compensation based on a 2003 ruling by a federal judge that Iranian intelligence orchestrated the attack, which killed 241.

The Carter administration froze $12 billion in 1979 after Iranian students seized the U.S. embassy and held 53 Americans captive. Some of the money was released after the hostage ordeal ended in 1981, although some of it remains in dispute.

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