U.S. accuses banker in Iran-sanctions case of hiding assets

Bloomberg– An international banker charged in the U.S. with laundering more than $100 million for an Iranian construction company “grossly” understated his net worth, prosecutors said in opposing his request to be freed on bail before a trial.

Ali Sadr Hashemi Nejad, a Cornell- and Wharton-educated banker with Iranian and St. Kitts and Nevis citizenships, told the prosecutors that he had as much as $4.6 million in assets in the U.S. and Cyprus. But in recent years, he reported assets of as much as $47 million, prosecutors said. He also failed to report additional entities he controls and bank accounts related to them containing tens of millions more, according to the U.S.

That gives him the resources to flee the U.S. before a trial, prosecutors said. A hearing was scheduled in Manhattan Wednesday for Sadr’s lawyers to request bail for their client, but they asked for a delay while they investigate and respond to the new allegations.

Sadr, who claimed he feared persecution in Iran on an asylum application traveled there more than 20 times between 2010 and 2015, the U.S. said.

Sadr was arrested last month arriving in Washington on a flight from Dublin. He was charged with money laundering and sanctions evasion, for allegedly helping a family-owned business in Tehran circumvent U.S. sanctions on payments it was receiving for a construction project in Venezuela. He pleaded not guilty.

At his arraignment, prosecutors characterized Sadr as the son of the “Bill Gates of Iran.” His lawyers disputed that portrayal.

They noted Sadr offered to put up more than $13 million in assets to secure his release.

U.S. District Judge Andrew L. Carter wondered if that was enough, saying he feared Sadr could simply repay his backers if he skipped bail.

“You don’t need to be Bill Gates to write a check for $13 million,” Carter said. “You could be P. Diddy.”

The case is U.S. v Nejad, 18-cr-224, US District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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