How Should Canada Deal with the Iranian Regime’s Assets?
On September 9, 2013, the Canadian Government identified some of the Islamic Regime of Iran’s (IRI) assets in Canada, which amount to millions of dollars.
The list of the Islamic Regime’s assets were released by the Department of Foreign Affairs to assist victims who want to collect damages from the IRI due to its support of terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah and Hamas.
The list of assets is divided in two. The first set are the diplomatic assets, which include the Iranian Chancery, the ambassador’s official residence, the staff headquarters in Ottawa, and two Embassy bank accounts. These diplomatic assets are protected and cannot be claimed by victims of terror.
The second set of assets are non-diplomatic. These include the Iranian Cultural Centre in Ottawa, a parking spot in Ottawa, 13 bank accounts amounting to 2.6 million dollars, and a visa account in the amount of $325,000 (currently frozen under UN sanctions); these non-diplomatic assets can be awarded to terror victims.
The Canadian Government has taken a step in the right direction by identifying the IRI’s assets. Questions remain, however, about whether what has been identified is the entirety of the assets known to the Canadian government—and whether, indeed, they should be made available to the victims of terror.
There is no mention in the government list of the assets of the former head of Iran’s National Bank (Bank Melli), Mahmoud Reza Khavari, who was the Chairman and Managing Director of Iran’s largest state-owned bank. Bank Melli has been sanctioned by the United States and the European Union for its funding of terrorist organizations such as Hamas, Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
In 2011, after a 2 billion dollar embezzlement scandal, it was discovered that Mr. Khavari was residing in a 3-million-dollar home in Toronto’s affluent Bridle Path neighborhood. Not only was Mr. Khavari residing in Canada, but he had actually obtained Canadian citizenship and brought at least the 3 million dollars necessary for his home purchase, and probably more, into the country. It is difficult to believe that the identity of Mr. Khavari was not known to the Canadian government at the time that he obtained his citizenship. And there are likely many other high ranking IRI affiliates living and investing in Canada; these individuals and their assets have not been identified or frozen by the Canadian Government.
As an Iranian-Canadian pro-democracy activist, I welcome Canada’s attempts to identify and freeze the IRI’s assets, but I am disappointed that our government has chosen to exclude the property of individuals like Mr. Khavari, who have been closely affiliated with the Islamic Regime. Moreover, I am concerned about the IRI’s non-diplomatic assets being made available for victims of terror to claim as compensation. The fact is that these assets do not rightfully belong to the IRI at all; the Regime has no legitimacy, having managed to stay in power for 34 years not through the will of the people but through the use of force, torture, rape, and execution.
By rights, the assets of the IRI belong to the people of Iran and not to its illegitimate government. I submit that these assets should indeed be frozen and should be held in trust by the Government of Canada to be handed over to a democratically-elected government after the overthrow of the Islamic Regime in Iran