Not guilty plea

NEW YORK – The Iranian chairperson of a Maltese bank on Wednesday pleaded not guilty to US charges that he took part in a scheme to evade US sanctions against Iran by funneling more than $115 million from a Venezuelan company to an Iranian company through the US financial system under a construction contract.

Ali Sadr Hashemi Nejad, chairperson of Maltese-registered Pilatus Bank, entered his plea at a court hearing before US Magistrate Judge Barbara Moses in Manhattan. Ms Moses denied Mr Nejad’s request to be released on bail, saying his wealth and connections around the world pointed to a high risk that he would flee.

Andrew Bauer, Mr Nejad’s lawyer, argued during the hearing that his client was unlikely to flee in part because he has ties to the United States, saying he was married to a US citizen and is a legal resident of the country. He said Mr Nejad’s wife and children were living in London while their residence in Washington, DC, was being renovated.