Turkish businessman describes a $ 50 million bribe in a sanctions trial


NEW YORK – A Turkish-Iranian gold dealer testified at a trial in New York on Wednesday that he paid more than $ 50 million in bribes to the Turkish finance minister In 2012 to overcome the fears of a banker was too known in Turkey to launder Iranian money in violation of the sanctions of the United States.

Reza Zarrab quietly described his agreement with one of the most important public officials in Turkey when he began what will be several days on the stand at the trial of Turkish banker Mehmet Hakan Atilla, accused in a conspiracy involving bribes and bribes to senior officials.

In a conversation about suspicious transactions with suitcases full of gold, Finance Minister Zafer Caglayan "asked about margin benefit," Zarrab testified. "And he said: I can negotiate this & # 39;

Zarrab's decision to plead guilty and cooperate with US investigators UU., Revealed on Tuesday on the first day of the trial, was a surprise turn in the trial. The indictment appeared in danger just months before Zarrab tried to free himself by hiring prominent and politically connected American lawyers to try to organize a transfer of prisoners between Turkey and the United States. The efforts of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former US Attorney General Michael Mukasey failed.

The star witness of the government appeared before the juries Wednesday in the federal court of Manhattan wearing prison uniforms, although he testified that he had left prison two weeks ago and in the custody of the FBI. At the end of the day without the jury, the judge questioned why he was wearing the outfit and told the prosecutors that he would sign an order that would allow him to wear civilian clothes if he wanted.

Once Zarrab, 34, on the stand, prosecutors were quick to get him to name names and smear reputation in the banking industry and government.

Assistant US Attorney Sidhardha Kamaraju obtained details of what the United States has said was a well-orchestrated conspiracy to evade the United States sanctions Iran and allows a billion dollars in Iranian oil profits to move through the banking markets international

Zarrab said he encountered resistance from a Halkbank executive when he approached the bank owned by the Turkish government in late 2011 or early 2012 to try to gain access to Iranian money through gold exchanges. The executive, he said, feared that Zarrab's marriage to Turkish pop star and television personality Ebru Gundes would make him "too popular" to do the exchanges.

"He was a person who was in the public eye all the time," he said.

Undeterred, Zarrab said he met with Caglayan, finance minister, when President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was prime minister. Caglayan told him that it would pave the way for gold exchanges, but only if he obtained half of the profits, which according to him reached a total of more than $ 50 million.

At one point, Zarrab drew diagrams for the jury to illustrate the elaborate network of transactions used to overcome economic sanctions and make it a fortune as an intermediary.

The tactics included the use of Iranian profits from gas and oil sales to Turkey to buy gold, causing the couriers to carry the gold in suitcases to Dubai, converting it back into cash that was deposited into a bank account. The main business and money laundering with multiple bank transfers, including some across the United States.

Zarrab testified that the sanctions evasion scheme was made in consultation with Atilla, a 47-year-old former deputy general manager of Halkbank who pleaded not guilty. An Atilla lawyer attacked Zarrab's credibility on Tuesday during opening statements, saying the trial is about Zarrab's crimes.

Caglayan is accused in the case of the USA. UU The indictment describes his alleged role in the gold transfer scheme and in another scheme in which he and other Turkish government officials allegedly approved and directed the movement of Iranian oil profits on the grounds that they were related to the sale of food and medicine. to Iran. from Dubai.

Erdogan has asked US authorities to "review" the decision to prosecute Caglayan, saying the former minister had not engaged in any crime because Turkey had not imposed sanctions on Iran, a major trading partner.

Zarrab's prosecution has been an important story in Turkey, where Erdogan has repeatedly called on the United States to free him and more recently described the United States case as a farce.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material can not be published, transmitted, rewritten or redistributed.

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