The Turkish General Directorate of Security in Ankara summoned a Turkey-based agent of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) after a Turkish fugitive testified in a U.S. court case against an executive at state-owned Halkbank, who is charged with taking part in a scheme to help Iran to evade U.S. sanctions.
On Monday, Hüseyin Korkmaz, a former police supervisor in İstanbul, was testifying in Manhattan federal court for U.S. prosecutors in the trial of Halbank executive Mehmet Hakan Atilla accused of taking part in a scheme to evade sanctions with gold trader Reza Zarrab.
Korkmaz told the jury that he began investigating Zarrab in 2012 for smuggling gold and money laundering. He said the probe quickly expanded to encompass government officials, including President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, then prime minister, and Zafer Cağlayan, then finance minister, as well as former Halkbank general manager Süleyman Aslan.
Korkmaz, a member of U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen's network, told jurors he fled Turkey in 2016, and took his evidence with him. CIA-linked Gülen network was one of the masterminds of last year's failed coup attempt. Korkmaz gave the files to the United States law enforcement authorities, who have used the material to prosecute Zarrab, who has since pleaded guilty and is cooperating with the government, and Mehmet Hakan Atilla, whose trial in Manhattan entered its third week on Monday
Korkmaz said he had received $50,000 from the FBI and financial assistance from U.S. prosecutors for his rental payments.
The U.S. case was built on work initially performed by pro-Fethullah Gülen Turkish investigators who targeted Erdoğan over gold trader Zarrab in 2013 in a sweeping corruption scandal that led to Turkish government officials. The evidence of the case, leaked tapes, elicited by the network of the Gülen, which had been organised in the police, judiciary, military and the other states institutions. Gülen had been a close ally of the then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, helping him to redesign and install his Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) in power in 2002.
Korkmaz ultimately came to the U.S. with the aid of American law enforcement officials. At the airport, he said, he gave authorities a trove of materials he’d taken, including audio recordings, photographs, statements and documents.
In his testimony, Korkmaz pointed to then-Prime Minister Erdoğan as the paramount figure, "number one" in the corruption probe.
U.S. prosecutors have charged nine people in the case, although only Zarrab, and Halkbank executive Atilla, have been arrested by U.S. authorities. Prosecutors have said the 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.