A New York federal judge lashed out at several prosecutors for possibly hiding evidence to the detriment of an Iranian businessman convicted of serving as the main link in the growing relations between the Islamic Republic and Venezuela, both adversary nations of the United States.
Miami World / AP
In an unusual twist, prosecutors dismissed the week charges against Ali Sadr Hashemi Nejad, who was convicted in March of using a network of front companies to channel more than $ 115 million in payments related to a work through US banks. under construction in Venezuela to his family business in Iran, in violation of US sanctions.
Sadr was free pending his August sentencing, in which he faced a maximum of 125 years in prison on charges including money laundering, bank fraud, and conspiracy to defraud the United States.
In March, US Attorney Geoffrey Berman praised law enforcement officers who brought Sadr to trial, and said in a statement that the conviction “demonstrates that the United States’ economic sanctions on Iran are real and that violators will be exposed and prosecuted.” .
But in a document last week, he revealed that before, during, and after the trial, “disclosure problems” arose that would have altered Sadr’s defense. As a result, he said, the government “has determined that it would not be in the interests of justice to continue this case.”
In response to the petition, Judge Alison Nathan rebuked Berman for the sudden change in decision. In a nine-point memorandum, the judge ordered prosecutors to identify all the evidence possibly withheld, the attorneys participating in the investigation and whether any crime was committed.
He added that recent events “raised serious concerns about government conduct.”
In a trial, prosecutors are required to release all evidence that can help the accused prove his innocence, and could face disciplinary sanctions if they do not.
“We are pleased that the government has decided to dismiss the case, but we are disappointed by the serious disclosure violations that led to this extraordinary request,” Sadr’s attorney, Brian Heberling, said in an email to The Associated Press.
“Ali Sadr would have been exonerated by the jury on equal terms and deserves the annulment of the verdict,” said Heberlig.
Another Sadr lawyer, Reid Weingarten, had complained in a court filing that his client had suffered “considerable damage to his reputation” due to “an unfair trial clouded by multiple government constitutional violations.”
Sadr’s conviction had been one of the most prominent to date showing Iran’s growing influence in Venezuela. In 2006, the Stratus Group, a Tehran-based conglomerate of Sadr’s family, created a subsidiary contracted by the Venezuelan state oil company to build 7,000 housing units for $ 475 million.
To hide the profits, Sadr and an accomplice acquired passports from Saint Kitts and Nevis, and used front companies in the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and Switzerland, according to the indictment.
Since then, the strategic partnership between Iran and Venezuela has grown: Iran sent five ships to Venezuela last month tanker to help you solve fuel shortage.