Turkey has detained 17 suspects in an investigation into Iranian-Turkish gold trader Reza Zarrab who was once a close ally of the government but is now testifying against officials as a star witness in a high profile US case, reports said on Tuesday.
Police detained three of Zarrab's employees on suspicion of delivering documents from the network of Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen to U.S. prosecutors, state-run Anadolu news agency said. The network of Fethullah Gülen was one of the masterminds of last year's coup attempt.
Police searched the houses of the three employees and found electronic copies of documents, Anadolu said. It said fourteen more people had been detained as part of the investigation.
Zarrab is giving evidence in a New York trial over alleged subversion of U.S. economic sanctions against Iran that has implicated former Turkish ministers and even President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. He has pleaded guilty to charges that he schemed to help Iran evade U.S. sanctions, and is testifying for U.S. prosecutors against an executive from a Turkish state-owned bank for related charges.
Ankara says U.S. prosecutors have based their case on documents "fabricated" by the network of Gülen.
Turkish officials have repeatedly argued that the U.S. case is a bid by Gülen to besmirch Erdoğan and Turkey, following a corruption scandal in late 2013 that had also seen Zarrab arrested.
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 allegedly 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. But his alliance with the AKP has faltered in recent years, especially in 2013 when police detained dozens of Erdoğan's key business and political allies over bribery allegations.