March 21, 2018 |
An Iranian businessman faces U.S. charges of evading economic sanctions on Iran by moving $115 million from Venezuela through the U.S., signifying that prosecutors are intensifying a crackdown on illicit attempts to transfer money through the American financial system.
Ali Sadr Hashemi Nejad was arrested and charged on Monday. Sadr, whose family controls the Iranian conglomerate Stratus Group, illegally moved the money through the U.S. as part of a $476 million deal to build 7,000 housing units in Venezuela, U.S. prosecutors said.
The charges come two months after Turkish banker Mehmet Hakan Atilla was convicted of helping Iran evade U.S sanctions. The government’s star witness against Atilla, who headed international banking at state-owned Turkiye Halk Bankasi AS, was a Turkish-Iranian gold trader who testified about how Halkbank secretly moved Iran’s cash from overseas oil sales through the global financial system to help pay Iran’s bills.
“The arrest of Sadr shows that US economic sanctions against Iran are for real, and violators will be exposed and prosecuted,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said on Twitter Tuesday as he announced the charges.
Sadr, 38, is alleged to have set up a network of front companies and foreign bank accounts to hide the business between Venezuela and the Iranian companies. The charges stem from an investigation begun by the Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance in 2013.