On March 16, 2020, a jury in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York convicted Ali Sadr Hashemi Nejad of one count of conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), one count of money laundering, one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, one count of bank fraud, and one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud.
Sadr is an Iranian national who, with his family, controlled the Stratus Group, a banking, construction, and oil industry conglomerate. According to the evidence, the Stratus Group incorporated a subsidiary in Teheran in 2006 to manage a construction project to build 7,000 housing units in Venezuela for the Venezuelan state-owned energy company, Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PdVSA); Sadr was responsible for managing the finances for this construction project.
The indictment alleged that Sadr took measures to conceal the role of Iranian parties in payments sent through US banks in connection with the project, using St. Kitts and Nevis passports and a United Arab Emirates address to incorporate Swiss and Turkish shell companies to receive dollar payments and thus avoid US sanctions imposed pursuant to IEEPA, which prohibits financial transactions in the US or involving US persons, if they are intended to benefit the government of Iran. The evidence demonstrated that PdVSA paid approximately $115 million to the Stratus subsidiary via the shell companies between 2011 and 2013, while lying to banks about the true owners of the shell companies, by altering payment vouchers, backdating contracts, manipulating websites and removing articles from the internet. According to the evidence, over $8.6 million was wired directly into the United States, and some of it was used to purchase real estate in California.
Sadr was convicted on four of the five counts charged against him. He was acquitted of a fifth count, conspiracy to commit money laundering.