A wealthy Iranian banker linked to the mysterious murder of a journalist was indicted for a $115 million evasion scheme, according to Reuters.
Ali Sadr Hashemi Nejad was funneling millions of dollars through a phony construction contract to evade United States economic sanctions against Iran.
Nejad, who chairs the Pilatus Bank, was arrested Monday in Virginia.
The six-count indictment reveals his family controls an Iranian-based company called Stratus Group, which launched a project in 2006 to construct homes in Venezuela.
Iran and Venezuela entered into an agreement at the time to construct housing units for tens of thousands of Venezuelans.
The federal indictment said Stratus and the Iranian International Housing Corporation forged a $476 million deal with a Venezuelan-based energy company to build 7,000 homes.
As part of the committee overseeing the project, Nejad evaded U.S. economic sanctions by not reporting Iranian parties were involved in the project.
The Venezuelan energy company paid $115 million to the Iranian International Housing Corporation using secretive entities in Turkey and Switzerland.
Because the U.S. has economic sanctions on Iran, Nejad knew the deal wouldn’t be possible without concealing the payments.
Nejad and his bank are also currently locked in a court battle over the mysterious death of Daphne Caruana Galizia, a journalist who was reporting on the corruption.
Before she was murdered in October 2017, Galizia wrote several articles accusing Nejad and his bank of money laundering and being involved with corrupt political activities.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said the indictment exposes Nejad for carrying out a massive evasion scheme to funnel millions and evade U.S. economic sanctions.
“As alleged, Ali Sadr Hashemi Nejad created a network of front companies and foreign bank accounts to mask Iranian business dealings in Venezuela and evade U.S. sanctions,” Berman said.
Nejad tried to funnel $115 million to avoid the U.S. banking system and he got caught.
But more importantly, his connection to a journalist who was murdered for reporting on his corruption scheme also raises serious questions and should warrant an investigation.