New York Consultant Denied Bail in Iran Trade Case

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A management consultant charged with violating the Iran Trade Embargo was denied bail Thursday despite his claims that he would not be welcome in Iran.

U.S. District Judge John F. Keenan ordered Mahmoud Reza Banki held until his March 22 trial on charges that he broke money transfer laws when he and relatives in Iran transferred money to each other.

Banki, 33, of Manhattan, has been held without bail since he was arrested earlier this month. He is accused of operating an unlicensed money transfer business, a charge that federal sentencing guidelines suggest would carry a prison term of at least five years after a conviction.

Keenan said there were no bail conditions that would ensure Banki's appearance in court.

Banki's lawyer, Attorney Marc Greenwald, told Keenan last week that his client was no risk to flee to Iran because it would be dangerous for him to do so, given his family's friction with Iran's government. He said Banki recently voted from the United States for an opposition candidate in the Iranian elections.

Banki, born in Teheran, Iran, became a U.S. citizen in 1996. He attended Purdue University and the University of California, Berkeley before obtaining a doctorate in chemical engineering from Princeton University.

Keenan noted in his ruling that Banki is currently unemployed, his closest relatives live in Iran and he had traveled to Iran as recently as August 2008.

"The government persuasively points out that if the family were in serious difficulty with the present Iranian government, that his mother and brother would hardly have returned there on Oct. 14, 2009, some four months after the controversial June 2009 elections," Keenan said.

The judge rejected a suggestion by Banki's lawyer that his client where an electronic bracelet after prosecutors submitted a document showing 140 people have fled while subject to electronic monitoring.

He also cited the discovery by investigators found in Banki's home documents showing examples of false identification cards and papers, something Banki's lawyer said his client obtained when he was underage at Purdue in 1994.

Greenwald said he will appeal the ruling.

"It's very disappointing," he said. "Mr. Banki is innocent of the charges and believes he should not be detained pending trial. He looks forward to being vindicated at trial."