Case of the Day: United States v. Assa Co.

The case of the day is United States v. Assa Co. Ltd. (2d Cir. 2019). This is one of several Iran-related FSIA decisions the Second Circuit issued last week. In Assa, the facts were these: Assa Corp. was a New York corporation formed in 1989. Its parent company is Assa Co., Ltd., a Jersey company. The Jersey parent was, in turn, owned by Harter Holdings Ltd., which Bank Melli, an Iranian state-owned bank, purchased in 1993. In 1995, the bank transferred Harter to Davood Shakeri and Fatemeh Aghamiri, but there was a dispute whether the bank continued to control Harter, and thus Assa, after the imposition of sanctions against Iran in 1995.

In 2008, the government brought a civil forfeiture action, seeking forfeiture of all of the interest of Assa and of the Bank in 650 Fifth Avenue Co., which owned the skyscraper at 650 Fifth Ave. in midtown Manhattan. There were several questions in the case, but I will focus on just one: in a civil forfeiture case, where the property is owned by a foreign state or an instrumentality of a foreign state, does the government need to show that jurisdiction exists under the FSIA? (more…)

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