U.S.-Based Company Named as Front for Iran

The Justice Department and the U.S. Treasury today designated a New York City-based company as a front for an Iranian bank believed to have funded Iran's research on weapons of mass destruction and the country's Revolutionary Guard Corps.

ASSA Corp. allegedly generated funds from a real-estate investment partnership that rented out parts of its building at 650 Fifth Ave.

The U.S government alleges that ASSA owns 40 percent of the partnership and shuttled the revenue back to Bank Melli, an Iranian bank that is registered in the Channel Islands off the French coast in the English Channel.

According to Justice Department documents filed today, the bank is wholly controlled by the Iranian government and, according to the Treasury Department, provides financing and collateral for front companies that are engaged in weapons proliferation. The building is owned by the 650 Fifth Avenue Co., which is a partnership that includes Bank Melli.

The ASSA Corp. has been charged in a civil complaint filed by the Justice Department with violations of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the Treasury Department's Iran Transactions Regulations; the charging documents allege that ASSA had accounts and revenue in back accounts at Citibank and JP Morgan/Chase, which were not aware of the alleged activities.

Bank Melli has not responded to ABC News' e-mail request for comment and the Justice Department is unsure of the whereabouts of ASSA's one New York employee.

A news release issued by the Treasury Department noted that, "Bank Melli provides banking services to Iran's military vanguard, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the Qods Force, which is a branch of the IRGC that has been designated under Executive Order 13224 for providing support to terrorist groups, including the Taliban, Hizballah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command."

'Dangerous Mix of Proliferation and Deception'

In a statement, U.S. Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey said, "This scheme to use a front company set up by Bank Melli -- a known proliferator -- to funnel money from the United States to Iran is yet another example of Iran's duplicity. ...The dangerous mix of proliferation and deception has led the United States, the European Union and Australia to designate Bank Melli, and the United Nations to issue a call for vigilance with respect to all Iranian banks."

According to the Treasury Department, Bank Melli has provided financial transactions for another Iranian bank, Bank Sepah. Treasury in January 2007 designated Sepah as a proliferator of weapons of mass destructions for providing funds and assistance to Iran's ballistic missile programs.

The Treasury Department action does not interfere with the business and other activities of the tenants of the building, including Charles Schwab & Co., IBM and Cushman & Wakefield.

ABC News' Richard Esposito contributed to this report.

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