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Thursday, December 18, 2014

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Iranian assets ordered seized to aid terror victims

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This Iranian-owned property at 290 Sheppard Ave. W. in Toronto will be sold to compensate victims of terrorism. [Paul Lungen photo]

TORONTO — An Ontario court has ordered that properties in Toronto and Ottawa owned indirectly by the government of Iran be sold to compensate several American victims of terrorism along with a Vancouver dentist.

The Superior Court of Justice also ordered two Canadian banks to transfer to the sheriff more than $2 million in cash held by agents of the Iranian government.

The estimated value of the assets comes to more than $7 million.

The court order by Judge D.M. Brown made in mid-March enforces earlier decisions by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, which had been adopted and recognized by the Nova Scotia Supreme Court.

Under the federal Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act (JVTA), passed in September 2012, Canadian courts “must recognize a judgment of a foreign court” in terrorism matters if certain conditions are met. The JVTA strips countries of state immunity in cases of terrorist acts.

The American plaintiffs in the case are Edward Tracy and the family of Joseph Cicippio. Both men were captured and held hostage in Beirut by Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed terrorist organization, from 1986-91.

Tracy sued Iran and won an $18.5-million U.S. judgment in 2003. Cicippio’s family won a $91-million U.S. judgment for emotional distress in 2005.

When they couldn’t collect on their court awards in the United States, they looked to Canada for relief. The JVTA permitted them to do so.

The JVTA was enacted “to deter terrorism by establishing a cause of action that allows victims of terrorism to sue perpetrators of terrorism and their supporters.”

Judge Brown noted that in addition to the Tracy case, the estate of Marla Bennett had approached the court to prevent the government of Iran and its Ministry of Information and Security (MIS) from selling the two Canadian properties. Bennett, from California, was killed by terrorists while visiting Jerusalem in 2002.

In addition, the court granted Sherri Wise permission to intervene in the case. Wise is a Vancouver dentist who was in Jerusalem volunteering at a dental clinic when she was injured by bombs planted by Hamas, a terrorist organization supported by Iran.

Neither Wise nor her Toronto lawyer, Mark Freiman, would comment on the case.

One of the properties ordered sold is located at 2 Robinson Ave. in Ottawa. It is valued at $3.9 million.

The other is at 290 Sheppard Ave. W., near Yonge Street. It is valued at $1.1 million.

The court found that the owner of the Ottawa property is the Mobin Foundation, whose sole director is Syed Adeli, a former Iranian ambassador to Canada.

The Toronto property is held by Farhangeiran Inc.

Judge Brown found that “the evidence overwhelmingly permits me to conclude that both properties are beneficially owned by Iran.”

Although neither the Mobin Foundation nor Farhangeiran Inc. contested the case, Iran’s state-run media called the decisions “politically motivated” and possessing “no legal value.”

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