US Treasury slaps alleged bank front for Iran

The United States moved Wednesday to clamp down financially on a New York City business suspected of acting as a front company for Iran's Bank Melli, which has been accused of providing support to Iran's nuclear program. The Treasury Department action covers ASSA Corp. of New York City as well as its parent, ASSA Co. Ltd., located in the Channel Islands between Britain and France. Any assets belonging to the companies found in the United States are frozen and Americans are prohibited from doing business with them. "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," said Stuart Levey, the Treasury Department's under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence. The US government alleged that ASSA Corp. was created by Bank Melli to hold its interest in a building located on Fifth Ave. in New York. The building's construction had been partly financed by a Bank Melli loan, Treasury said. ASSA Corp. co-owns the building through a partnership formed with the Alavi Foundation of New York, called 650 Fifth Avenue Co., the government said.