Iranian front group sent funds to Canada: U.S.

From The National Post

Charity sending money to Canada is an Iranian government front: U.S.

McGill, Carleton among recipients

Stewart Bell, National Post Published: Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A woman walks past an anti-U.S. mural in Tehran Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images A woman walks past an anti-U.S. mural in Tehran

TORONTO — An organization the United States alleges is a front for the Iranian government has been bankrolling programs in Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa, charity records show.

The Alavi Foundation sent hundreds of thousands of dollars to Canada before U.S. justice department officials went to court last Thursday to seize the group’s assets.

While the New York-based charity says its mission is to promote Islamic culture and the Persian language, U.S. prosecutors say it is secretly controlled by Tehran and have arrested its president.

A complaint filed in U.S. District Court alleges the foundation was closely tied to an Iranian government bank involved in building Iran’s nuclear and missile programs.

“For two decades, the Alavi Foundation’s affairs have been directed by various Iranian officials, including Iranian ambassadors to the United Nations, in violation of a series of American laws,” said Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Charity records show the foundation was active in Canada as well. The top Canadian recipient of Alavi funds was the Toronto Farsi School, which has received almost $130,000 from the foundation since 2005.

A spokesman for the school said he may have to shut down without the Alavi funding. “This is very important for us,” said the man, who did not want his name published. “We are trying to keep the language alive.”

McGill University’s Institute of Islamic Studies also received $120,000 from Alavi over the past three years. Professor Christopher Manfredi, the Dean of Arts, said the money paid for a Persian language program and supported several students. But he said the foundation was not involved in the operation of the program or the selection of students.

Carleton University received a single donation of $10,000. The College of Humanities approached the foundation to sponsor a 2007 conference in celebration of Molana Jala ad-Din Mohammad Molavi Rumi, a 13th-century Persian theologian. “There is no ongoing relationship between Carleton and the foundation,” said Steve Blais, the university’s media relations officer.

The Alavi Foundation disbursed millions to North American mosques and Farsi-language programs but it was also suspected of links to the Iranian regime. The FBI has been investigating its relationship to Bank Melli, which allegedly provides banking services to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, the militia that trains, equips and finances such terrorist groups as the Taliban, Hezbollah and Hamas. The bank is also accused by the U.S. Treasury of facilitating the purchase of components for Iran’s nuclear and missile programs.

The president of the Alavi Foundation, Farshid Jahedi, was arrested last December for obstructing justice after he allegedly destroyed documents he was required to produce to a grand jury looking into the foundation’s links to Bank Melli.

National Post

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