Billionaire Philanthropist Named in Lawsuit Against Anti-Iran Group

Tuesday, 19 Aug 2014 09:36 AM

By Andrea Billups

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A billionaire philanthropist has been named in a lawsuit against an anti-Iran group that threatens to expose U.S. government secrets.

Thomas S. Kaplan was named in a defamation suit brought by Greek businessman Victor Restis, who was called out last year by the group United Against Nuclear Iran in what is described as a "name and shame" campaign designed to publicly discourage companies from doing business with Tehran, The New York Times reported.

The suit seeks documents from Kaplan related to the group's inner workings — secrets so concerning that the Justice Department has now stepped in to mediate, hoping that it will end and limit exposure to sensitive information, sources told the Times.

Lawyers for Restis argue that the information will expose the inner workings of the U.S. government and its relationship with the group, which was founded by prominent administration Democrats and Republicans in 2008.

Observers say it is uncertain what information within those documents concerns the Justice Department, Salon reported in a profile of Kaplan, which referred to him as "a billionaire gold evangelist" with an interest in investing in precious metals as well as political instability.

Restis, a shipping magnate, was accused of "fronting for Iran's government in its bid to bypass energy sector sanctions aimed at stopping its alleged nuclear weapons program," JTA.org reported of the case. Restis has denied those allegations.

Any settlement seems far apart, with court fillings growing "bitter," the Times said.

Kaplan is linked to the United Against Nuclear Iran group through his company, Tigris Financial Group. The UANI's CEO is also CEO at Tigris. Lawyers for Restis claim that the family of Wallace's wife is a big investor in a company called Overseas Shipping Group, which could profit over allegations against Restis' company, Enterprises Shipping and Trading.

Attorneys for Kaplan are seeking testimony from Restis, who is in Greece and forbidden to travel because he is under an unrelated criminal investigation there, the Times said. They want Restis to testify about his business relationships with Iran.

Such engagement of the Justice Department in this case is rare, signaling the government's growing concern in release of information, the Times said. "An early settlement would keep the documents secret and prevent the government from ever explaining how the group obtained them," Matt Apuzzo of the Times wrote.

The judge in the case has set a Sept. 12 deadline for the Justice Department to determine if it wants to attempt a permanent block of the files.

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