Obama Admin Dropped $10 Million Claim in Iran Prisoner Deal

Barack Obama and John Kerry
Barack Obama and John Kerry / APP
January 27, 2016

The Obama administration dropped a $10 million claim against one of the Iranians granted clemency in a deal with Iran earlier this month.

Reuters reported:

To sweeten the deal, the U.S. administration then dropped a claim against the Iran-born aerospace engineer [Nader Modanlo] for $10 million that a Maryland jury found he had taken as an illegal payment from Iran, according to interviews with Modanlo, lawyers involved and U.S. officials with knowledge of the matter. ... A Washington-based spokesman for the Justice Department declined to comment on discussions over the $10 million, which the jury found that Modanlo was paid to help Iran launch its first satellite in 2005. Modanlo says the money was a loan from a Swiss company for a telecoms deal.

Modanlo was one of seven Iranians who received pardons or had their sentences commuted by President Obama in the prisoner exchange, which coincided with the official implementation of the nuclear deal with Iran. Before the administration’s decision to drop the $10 million claim, Modanlo rejected the deal for his release.

The former aerospace executive said that he wanted the opportunity to clear his name in court.

"I was mostly disappointed that I have to give up my right to appeal," Modanlo told Reuters. "If they believe in their justice system why would they deprive me of it? Let them prove me wrong."

Of the seven prisoners, Modanlo was serving the longest sentence and had the most connections to the Iranian government.

In exchange for the commutations and pardons of the seven Iranians, Iran released five Americans it had imprisoned.

When announcing the previously secret prisoner swap this month, Obama emphasized that the Iranians had not been charged with terrorism or violent crimes. He characterized their release as a "one-time gesture to Iran given the unique opportunity offered by this moment and the larger circumstances at play."