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In SDNY Trial Iranian Banker Nejad Wants Trita Parsi As Expert As US Moves To Exclude

By Matthew Russell Lee, Thread, Patreon Song

SDNY COURTHOUSE, March 8 – Iranian banker Ali Sadr Hashemi Nejad is on trial, charged with money laundering and violating US sanctions including through a Venezuelan infrastructure project. He is represented by lawyer Reid Weingarten of Steptoe & Johnson and, on November 25 as reported by Inner City Press by Brian M. Heberlig before U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge Alison J. Nathan.

  On Sunday, March 8 the US Attorney Office which is slated to close its case on March 9 moved to preclude two expert witnesses for Ali Sadr: "The Government respectfully moves to preclude proposed testimony from Trita Parsi... on 'de-risking' because neither of these witnesses are qualified to discuss this concept. (See Dkt. 249, Ex. A). Parsi is former President and Founder of the National Iranian American Council “NIAC”), a non-profit “dedicated to strengthening the voice of Iranian Americans and promoting greater understanding between the American and Iranian people.” See NIAC, About Us, available here. Parsi has never worked for a bank or in bank compliance. Nor has Parsi published any articles or research or conducted any scientific studies about “de-risking.” From the defense’s expert notice, it appears that Parsi’s purported expertise on “de-risking” stems from his personal discussions with Iranian-Americans. This evidence is thus purely anecdotal and wholly unreliable. The defense’s expert notice does not indicate how many individuals Parsi has interviewed and the methodology of these interviews. To the extent that the defense claims that Parsi’s anecdotal evidence is based on NIAC’s membership—the Government notes that Parsi has “systematically hyped the number of its members and misrepresented its constituency.” (See here and here). Parsi thus does not qualify as an expert on “derisking” and should be precluded from testifying under Rule 702."

  Back on March 4 the defendant's St. Kitts and Nevis "citizenship by investment" passport was inquired into by the US - his lawyers pointed out that Canada has a similar program -- and a material witness testified about the Venezuela project. Inner City Press live tweeted thread here.

  On cross examination he was implicitly accused of having violated Iran sanctions by accepting by wire a $50,000 payment from the defendant's father. Inner City Press earlier in the week reported on this witness getting his own free lawyer, back dated to December 2019 when he began speaking with the US Attorney's Office, here. More on Patreon here.

  After jury selection on March 2, the opening arguments took place on March 3, and Inner City Press live tweeted them, thread here. In sum, while the government said it will show that Ali Sadr intentionally evaded sanctions, Weingarten portrayed Ali Sadr as hating the Mullahs and having a "pure heart," only want to help his father.

  A witness speaking in Farsi was laboriously questioned by Assistant US Attorney Michael Krause about the Venezuela project. More on Patreon here.

   Back on November 25, Heberlig argued at length for the suppression and return of emails seized, saying that looking for emails about money laundering was too broad. He insisted that his clients project in Venezuela was pure business, and that the government should have have been looking into his trips to Iran.

  As a civil libertarian, the arguments were attractive. In a courthouse where less affluent defendants are processed through in much different ways, less so.

  The government has two weeks to go page by page through their May 2018 420 PDFs; the defense got the same two weeks to pick out their seven or so worst examples of overreach. Two senior AUSA who sat through most of the argument left before Heberlig's final barrage. For those keeping score, the government ceded most ground in this hearing. Meanwhile in the Magistrates Court on less fancy crimes they are requesting detention in nearly every case. Inner City Press will have more on this.

   At the earlier Curcio hearing while adding prior Steptoe clients Citibank, UBS and Commerzbank to Steptoe's script, Nathan found the Sadr knowingly waived all conflicts of interest.

  Then a surprise: Assistant US Attorney Michael K. Krouse acknowledged that yet to be turned over are e-mails from seven custodian other than Sadr, somehow lost in the cracks of the case. Judge Nathan gave Krouse a week to provide a status update, with full production to be completed in two weeks and a response by Steptoe a week after that. They will be seeking to exclude these e-mails.

  On the bracelet removal request, Judge Nathan said she saw no reason to do it. Weingarten replied that Pre-Trial favors it, and that he wants to meet with Sadr until midnight. The government's position will be known in a week and more from Steptoe if the government opposes either. It's good to have money, in essence. This is not how lower income defendants are often treated in the SDNY. The case is USA v. Nejad,  18-cr-00224 (Nathan). More on Patreon here



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