It's a colossal take on a minor Turkish tabloid celebrity who, for years, escaped trial in his own country and now faces years in the US prison.
Reza Zarrab, once the main defendant in a broad investigation into money laundering, pleaded guilty to money laundering and bank fraud, among other charges, according to court documents.
He is now the star witness of the US government. UU In New York criminal trial against his alleged counterpart: a Turkish banker named Mehmet Hakan Atilla, who until recently was co-defendant of Zarrab. Atilla pleaded not guilty.
On Tuesday, his fifth day of testimony, Zarrab calculated how much he earned by laundering Iranian money for six years until he was arrested in Miami in 2016.
"I do not remember exactly," Zarrab said. "It could be $ 100 million, it could be more than that, maybe $ 150 million."
He said that "after paying a commission for the bank and other bribes," he was left with a cut of 0.4%, equivalent to $ 4 for every $ 1,000.
Massive fraud "tremendously possible"
Although Zarrab has not said how much Iranian money he moved illegally through international banks, a 0.4% cut that equals his payment would mean that Iran helped moves $ 25 billion to $ 37 billion, an amazing number for a black market operation headed by a single man.
That figure did not appear in court documents. The US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York did not immediately respond to CNN's questions about the magnitude of the alleged fraud.
An expert on Iranian sanctions said that the total of $ 37 billion was "possible … maybe more as wildly as possible."
"It still amazes me how big the profits are and the level of evasions of financial sanctions, but this would be a stretch … so I would be skeptical, "said George A. Lopez, a professor at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame.
However, several United Nations reports on the effect of the Iranian sanction indicate that a single person could help Iran to launder huge amounts of money. Reports from the UN Panel of Experts describe how in 2011 "a local businessman" in a country falsified documents to transfer $ 1 billion from the central bank of Iran to countries around the world.
During his previous testimony in court, Zarrab said that Iran had $ 3 billion in the Turkish state bank Halkbank. It was those accounts that Zarrab says was allocated the emptying to move the Iranian funds.
In a written statement, Halkbank denied the allegations: "Our bank did not make illegal transfers in any country, there is no systematic or conscious violation to avoid the embargo."
Money paid by prostitutes
Atilla's defense attorney, Cathy Fleming, appeared to attack Zarrab's integrity by questioning him on Tuesday and Wednesday about how he spent his wealth.
Zarrab admitted that in 2013 he paid for prostitutes to satisfy "others," potential business partners and clients.
He also said he was carrying $ 102,000 when he was arrested in March 2016 – cash that the international bank fraudster and money launderer planned to spend on a family trip to Walt Disney World.  "This was the money needed for our 10-day trip for seven people," Zarrab said.
He also admitted that, while in a US jail, he used his Turkish lawyer to channel $ 45,000 to a US prison guard. UU It was a bribe to put alcohol in jail and use the cell phone of the guard to call relatives in Turkey.
Zarrab also admitted to paying other inmates for using his phone's time when his 300-minute allowance was over. .
Allegation of Rape
The closely watched trial took an unexpected turn on Wednesday night, when Zarrab was sued by a former prisoner who accused him of rape.
The inmate is a man from Côte d'Ivoire who recently pleaded guilty to provide "material support" to a terrorist organization; He had connected the Colombian guerrilla group FARC with an arms dealer.
According to the man's lawsuit, Zarrab raped him, assaulted him with his hands and sodomized him with a cucumber when they shared a cell earlier this year at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan.
Zarrab's lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, told CNN via email: "Mr. Zarrab vehemently denies this scandalous and patently false accusation, and intends to defend himself vigorously against this offensive trial."
Last week, Zarrab implicated senior officials of the Turkish government when he testified that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister of the time, personally intervened in the plan, as well as former Turkish Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan.
Also last week, Erdogan said that Turkey "did the right thing" and did not violate US sanctions against Iran, according to CNN Turk. Caglayan denied all the accusations in a Turkish investigation into these accusations that began in 2013.
The accusations have triggered a diplomatic dispute between Turkey and the United States. Turkey claims that the current US trial is a ruse designed to harm Turkish politicians, and its government has retaliated by moving to seize Zarrab's assets.
Sergio Hernández of CNN contributed to this report.