Tuesday, January 26, 2021

U.S. collects $7m in Iranian assets for victims of terrorism

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The US government collected $7m in Iranian assets for victims of state-sponsored “terrorism”, the Justice Department said on Tuesday.

The money was the US share of a civil forfeiture that targeted attempts to violate sanctions on Iran with fraudulent transfers of about $1bn of Iranian-owned funds to accounts around the world, it said in a statement.

The Justice Department claimed in a statement the conspiracy “included several Iranian nationals and others, who fraudulently transferred approximately $1 billion worth of Iranian-owned funds to accounts around the world”.

The conspiracy included “three Iranian nationals and, allegedly, one U.S. citizen”, the Justice Department claimed. It was operated by submitting documents to South Korean banks that appeared to show “legitimate” business between Iranian and South Korean companies.

Iranian funds were sent all over the world through the conspiracy, including to a bank in Anchorage, Alaska, where Mitchell Zong was convicted in 2016 of “laundering approximately $968,000 of Iranian-derived funds”.

Kenneth Zong, the US citizen accused in the conspiracy, is Mitchell’s father. He was indicted in December 2016 on 47 counts of violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the Iranian Transaction and Sanctions Regulations, the Justice Department said.

Zong remains in South Korea, where he recently completed a prison term in relation to the scheme, according to the statement.

“The funds forfeited today had been destined to benefit criminal actors who engaged in an elaborate scheme to violate U.S. sanctions against Iran, one of the world’s leading state sponsors of terrorism,” Acting Assistant Attorney General David Burns said in the statement.

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