Turkish leader restarts Iran’s washing scheme, says Witness



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Turkey's prime minister personally ordered the resumption of a plan to launder billions of dollars in Iranian oil revenues and bypbad US sanctions in 2014 after an investigation into the matter was nullified, a government witness testified in a trial in New York.

The witness, the gold and forex trader Reza Zarrab, did not specify who the prime minister was, although he seemed to refer to Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who held the office until the end of August 2014 when he became president. Zarrab was testifying about a series of text messages between him and his lawyer that took place in June of that year. Zarrab's testimony has previously implicated Erdogan.

Photographer: Ozan Kose / AFP via Getty Images

Zarrab said on the witness stand that he learned from his Turkish lawyer that the prime minister ordered the restart of the operation after Zarrab met resistance at Turkiye Halk Bankasi AS, a large Turkish state bank that was central to the operation. Zarrab also said that Erdogan's son-in-law, Berat Albayrak, who is now Turkey's energy minister, also supported the plan.

"He is saying that he would meet with the prime minister," Zarrab explained about the texts, "and that the order to begin would be given." In a message, Zarrab's lawyer refers to Albayrak as "the boyfriend" and says that Albayrak told him: "This work should definitely be done."

The testimony came on the seventh and last day of Zarrab on the stand. In a case accusing nine people of a conspiracy to help Iran evade US sanctions, Zarrab pleaded guilty weeks before the trial began and agreed to cooperate with the prosecution, becoming a key witness for the government.

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In the course of his testimony, Zarrab, 34, uncovered the intricate system that It was used to help Iran access billions in oil revenues in banks beyond its reach as the United States increased sanctions against the country in response to its nuclear program.

Zarrab, along with Halkbank executives, their employees and others, took Iran's money from Turkey and other countries by disguising it as a gold or unrelated food trade, and used it to make international payments on behalf of Iran, to times through banks in the United States in the process.

From the witness stand, he implicated the lone defendant in trial, the Halkbank executive Mehmet Hakan Atilla, as well as other executives of the bank and senior officials of the Turkish government, and said he paid tens of millions of dollars in bribes to Let this happen. All the other defendants in the case remain abroad and have prevented the arrest of the United States.

Tense relations

The case has strained relations between the US. UU And Turkey, which has long been seen as a key ally in the Middle East. Erdogan, who suppressed a corruption investigation in Turkey into the allegations in 2014, has personally appealed to the Obama and Trump administrations to abandon the case. He has cataloged it as a US attempt to undermine Turkey's economy.

Zarrab's testimony about the prime minister was just one of the surprise revelations on Thursday, after days of interminable interrogations and cross-examination. He also said he was placed in protective custody after being threatened by a partner in a federal prison with a knife for his cooperation with the government, and that Erdogan's administration began to seize his personal badets last week after he began testify in the case. Meanwhile, a former cellmate of Zarrab filed a lawsuit against him Wednesday afternoon charging him with rape while in jail in New York.

Zarrab testified last week that in an earlier phase of Iran's washing operation, Erdogan gave his blessing and ordered two other Turkish banks to intervene in the action. In court documents, federal prosecutors have cited telephone conversations in which Zarrab invoked Erdogan's name as an advance of the plan.

But Zarrab's testimony was the first time he connected the resumption of the laundering plan to the country's leaders after Zarrab was freed from the Turkish prison and the charges dropped. Just before offering that in court, under the questioning of prosecutor Sidhardha Kamaraju, Zarrab described how he got his release from prison.

& # 39; I have made payments & # 39;

"I paid and in part they were bribes," he said. .

Zarrab was trying to restart the washing business, but Halkbank's new general manager, Ali Fuat Taskinoglu, told Zarrab to talk to lower-level bank employees who requested extensive documentation. So Zarrab's lawyer sought a meeting with the prime minister to resolve it.

After the prime minister was informed of the robbery in Halkabank, Zarrab said his lawyer told him that "his old system would restart again." [19659002] Zarrab managed to successfully revive the washing system, which he said remained in operation until the time of his arrest in Miami in March 2016, when he arrived in the United States for a family trip to Disney World.

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