A Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab testifying at the trial of a Turkish bank executive in a New York federal court said Monday that he paid bribes to secure his release from jail in Turkey in 2013 after he was arrested there in a corruption investigation.
Zarrab with ties to Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has not said as to who received the bribes. He has pleaded guilty to charges that he schemed to help Iran evade U.S. sanctions. Zarrab is testifying for U.S. prosecutors against Mehmet Hakan Atilla, an executive at Turkey's state-owned Halkbank facing related charges. Atilla has pleaded not guilty.
Zarrab was arrested by U.S. authorities in Miami in March 2016 on charges of helping Iran process millions of dollars of transactions when it was under U.S. sanctions for its nuclear program. The case threatens to reopen a case that reached right into Erdoğan’s inner circle. It will also deepen existing tensions between Turkey and the United States. Zarrab was detained and charged in İstanbul in 2013 in a huge corruption case. All charges against Zarrab and those linked to Erdoğan's government were dropped.
U.S. prosecutors have alleged that nine defendants took part in a scheme from 2010 to 2015 that involved gold trades and fake purchases of food to give Iran access to international markets, violating U.S. sanctions. Only Zarrab, 34, and Atilla, 47, have been arrested by U.S. authorities. In Monday's letter, Atilla's lawyers also renewed arguments that they have not had enough time to review materials turned over by prosecutors, making it harder for their client to get a fair trial.