An Ontario judge has ordered the seizure of more than $7 million worth of bank accounts and property belonging to Iran, in a historic ruling that will turn over the assets to victims of terrorist groups that it bankrolled.
The decision represents a groundbreaking victory for likely an array of litigants ranging from the families of two Americans who were held hostage in Beirut to a B.C. dentist who was badly burned in a 1997 Jerusalem suicide bombing.
Some of the plaintiffs had long ago won multimillion-dollar U.S. judgments against Tehran, but then spent years in American and Canadian courts trying to collect from a regime that uses front companies to hide vast real estate and financial holdings in the West.
"Typically something we've seen done over the years is use cultural organizations, charities, Persian language centres that the government has funded as fronts, really to build up a base of operations in other countries," Mark Dubowitz, who is executive director of the Washington-based Foundation for Defence of Democracies and who provided expert evidence for the plaintiffs, told CBC News.
"But they also use that as a base for procurement, to buy material they need for their nuclear program, their ballistic missile program, their military. But also energy. The key sectors of the economy where they haven't been able to find the technologies they need due to the economic sanctions."