Feds Seize Assets in Iranian Money-Laundering Scheme

     ANCHORAGE, Alaska (CN) — Federal prosecutors have ordered the family of a former Anchorage businessman to forfeit more than $8 million in cash, real estate and vehicles associated with accusations of laundering money for the Iranian government.
     The July 21 decree of forfeiture ends the government’s case against Zong and his family, which was filed in 2014. Officials claim that Zong violated the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which authorizes sanctions against foreign nations that the government deems are a threat to the United States.
     Iran has long been sanctioned for ties to terrorism and its attempts to acquire nuclear arms. The business relationship between Zong and several Iranians was one such effort to evade sanctions by converting Iranian funds to U.S. dollars, according to court documents.
     Federal prosecutors maintain that Zong got rich by creating “numerous and fictitious shell companies” in South Korea to convert $1 billion from the Iranian government into U.S. dollars that would then be transferred worldwide.
     Prosecutors believe Zong began laundering money in 2011 through his company Anchore, which supposedly sold marble tile and other construction supplies over the course of two years to Farsoodeh & Partnership. One of Zong’s four sons, Mitchell, went to college with Majid Farsoodeh in Colorado, according to an earlier article in the Alaska Dispatch News, a relationship which provided the link between the Iranian government and Zong.
     “This whole case was predicated upon the fact that approximately $1 billion of Iranian funds … were deposited into Korean banks, and $10 million of that ended up in the hands of the children of Kenneth Zong,” assistant U.S. attorney Jim Barkeley told the Alaska Dispatch News.
     Anchorage homes and condos, a home in Oregon, and several vehicles including a Porsche and a Mercedes-Benz were purchased with $10 million Zong received as compensation for helping the Iranians funnel cash, prosecutors said.
     Most of the property belonged to Zong’s sons, according to court documents. The Zongs were able to keep some items and cash, but the majority of property suspected to be tied to Iran will be handed over, according to the decree.
     Prosecutors have not formally charged the elder Zong or his family. It is believed that Zong was convicted in 2013 while living in South Korea for breaking foreign exchange and customs laws there, and is likely still in South Korea.
     Zong originally lived in Anchorage beginning in 1980. He became a U.S. citizen in 1985, and in 2001 reportedly moved back to South Korea.
     He and his wife and his sons continued to maintain businesses in Anchorage, including restaurants and condominium rentals.
     Zong was represented in the civil forfeiture case by Robert Mahler, a defense lawyer based in Seattle.

%d bloggers like this: