Hundreds of French police raided the Paris offices of the Iranian opposition group the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran today.
More than 160 people were detained and €1.12m in 100 US dollar bills was seized, the Interior Ministry said.
About 1,300 counter-intelligence agents, police and a special intervention squad took part in the dawn sweep that focused on 13 sites.
Police used explosives to blast down some doors, one officer said.
Large quantities of computer material and “ultra-sophisticated transmission systems” were also seized during the raids, the police investigator said.
The sweep was carried out on the orders of anti-terrorism Judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere for “criminal association aimed at preparing terrorism acts and for financing a terrorist enterprise,” the Interior Ministry said.
The European Union declared the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran a terrorist organisation in May 2002.
But this was the first time since then that French authorities moved to detain members of the group, which is the political branch of the Iraq-based Mujahedeen Khalq fighting the clerical government in Tehran.
In May, the Mujahedeen Khalq began handing in its weapons to US forces in Iraq under a surrender agreement.
The sites of the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran implanted in the Paris region “are considered organisational, logistical and operational bases of questionable financing,” the Interior Ministry statement said.
The sweep was concentrated in the Val d’Oise region north of Paris and in the Yvelines region to the west. Police, in particular, were concentrating on installations in Auvers-sur-Oise.
The Mujahedeen have had their headquarters in Auvers-sur-Oise since shortly after the 1979 Islamic revolution that toppled the Iranian monarchy and brought Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who has since died, to power. The group had initially supported the revolution.
It now has offices in several western cities.
Massoud Rajavi, head of the Mujahedeen Khalq guerrilla group that fought the monarchy, was expelled from France to Iraq in 1986, under the then-prime minister of France, Jacques Chirac, who was trying to improve relations with Iran. Chirac has been France’s president since 1995.
Rajavi then set up an army in Iraq to attack neighbouring Iran.