The trial of a gold merchant in New York deepens mistrust between the US UU And Turkey



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A Turkish-Iranian gold merchant must go to trial this week in New York, but nobody expects him to be there, at least not at the defense table.

After a sealed hearing last week, lawyers and the judge in the case just said what will happen exactly once . UU v. Reza Zarrab and others gets underway with the selection of the jury on Monday. Zarrab, 34, is accused of orchestrating a year-long plan to violate US sanctions against Iran by hiding the banking transactions that delivered gold and US currency to the government of that country.

Since the arrest of Zarrab in March 2016, the Turkey Relations case. Zarrab is described by the American authorities as well connected with the high positions of the Turkish government, which in turn calls his prosecutor's office an attack on his country.

Turkish prosecutors announced on November 18 that they had launched their own investigation into two of the Americans. the prosecutors who have supervised the Zarrab case, to determine if evidence was obtained illegally. Federal prosecutor Joon H. Kim, one of the officials Turkey claims to have investigated, called the accusations "ridiculous."

"Even before the trial began, the rhetoric and tension between the two sides has actually intensified, and I would expect that to continue and worsen once the trial actually begins," said Amanda Sloat, a researcher principal of the Brookings Institution, and former official of the State Department. "Looking ahead, this case will generate more distrust"

[U.S.-Turkey tensions boil over after arrest of consulate employee ]

The president of Turkey personally pressured the US government to free Zarrab, and his Foreign Minister Zarrab said he was a "hostage" forced to testify against the government of Turkey.

Last week, United States District Court Judge Richard M. Berman dismissed the conversation, saying that if Turkey wants to help Zarrab, they should provide evidence to help him win the charges.

"The best way for them to be helpful is to help the defense attorney present any evidence or witness they know in the court that can help the defense," Berman said.

Zarrab, a rich and tall man – profile representative in Turkey, is accused of conspiring to defraud the United States, conspiring to violate the United States sanctions law, bank fraud and money laundering. He was originally scheduled to go to trial with Mehmet Hakan Attila, executive vice president of Halkbank, which is majority owned by the Turkish government.

The alleged plan allowed Halkbank "to supply billions of dollars in services to the government of Iran without risking being sanctioned by the United States," according to the indictment.

[The U.S. is on a collision course with Iran in the Middle East]

The indictment says that "senior officials in Iran and Turkey participated and protected this scheme." Some officials received bribes worth tens of millions of dollars paid with the funds from the plan to promote the plan, protect the participants and help protect the plan from the scrutiny of US regulators, "he alleges.

The Turkish government has accused US prosecutors of building their case on former corruption charges brought by Turkish prosecutors years before they were finally eliminated amid continuing internal power struggles in the government of that country.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Turkey was accusing "the old song and dancing … I would have to give her the same answer as the last time they accused us of trying to foment some kind of coup. it's ridiculous ".

Since his arrest, Zarrab has been detained in a federal prison in New York City. But he stopped appearing at pretrial hearings in court, and in early November, the US Bureau of Prisons website listed him as released, although authorities said he was still in federal custody.

Often, that is a strong indicator that someone has decided to cooperate with government prosecutors. Several people close to the case, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they believe, but do not know, that Zarrab is cooperating with the Department of Justice.

Sloat said that if Zarrab testifies for the accusation, "you would have the main privilege." I suspect I can articulate specifically what happened and who else was involved in these events, and that is the part that is presumably causing concern in Ankara. "

Last week, Attila's attorney, Cathy Fleming, said at a hearing that the growing secrecy surrounding the case was hampering her ability to prepare for the trial, and she said she was not even allowed to tell her client the name of one of the witnesses against her.

"Frankly, if we suggest the name to someone, it's going to end up in the press, "he said.

Zarrab's lawyer declined to comment.

Speculation about Zarrab's possible cooperation has led some to suspect that he can provide information not only to the prosecutors over Turkey, but also to specialized investigators investigating President Trump's badociates, including his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn. [194] 59004]

[Flynn’s lawyer shuts down communications with Trump’s team, a sign he may be cooperating with Mueller probe]

Flynn worked on behalf of Turkey before the election, and investigators have examined their business relationships with figures related to the Turkish government.

It is not clear, however, that even if Zarrab is cooperating, he would have a lot to say about Flynn or Trump. His arrest came in early 2016, well before many of the events that are being investigated by special counselor Robert S. Mueller III.

If Zarrab appears as a prosecution witness at his trial, it will be the last and greatest turn in an FBI investigation that has had several strange twists.

When the FBI began investigating the financial transactions at the heart of the case, there was much that they did not understand. But then an outside expert in forensic accounting showed them how many of the transactions allegedly concealed significant violations of US law, according to people familiar with the case.

Shortly after that revelation, investigators discovered that Zarrab was traveling with his family to Disney World in Florida. According to these people, they had not planned to move so fast on him, but took the opportunity to arrest him.

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