Mukasey steps aside in Iranian building case


WASHINGTON (JTA) — The U.S. attorney general has recused himself from the investigation of a midtown Manhattan building owned by a company allegedly affiliated with a sanctioned Iranian bank.

Michael Mukasey, who is Jewish, representated the majority owner of the building, the Alavi Foundation, in a real estate dispute in the early 1980s and his former law firm — Patterson, Belknap Webb & Tyler — is listed as the foundation’s general counsel in tax filings, reported the Washington Post.

The Department of Justice filed a civil forfeiture action against the building’s co-owners — Assa Corp., Assa Co. Ltd. and Bank Melli — on Wednesday. Bank Melli is one of at least two Iranian banks that is on a U.S. list of entities sanctioned for ties to Iran’s energy sector and by extension its suspected nuclear weapons program.

The Post reported Justice Department documents suggest the Alavi Foundation also has connections to the Iranian government, although the organization has denied such ties.

The foundation was founded by the late Shah of Iran, a mortal enemy of the current theocracy; Justice officials have suggested in recent days that Iran’s government has assumed control of its business.

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