UPDATE 1: Turkish gold merchant begins to testify for US prosecutors UU



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By Brendan Pierson

NEW YORK, Nov 29 (Reuters) – A Turkish-Iranian gold trader began testifying Wednesday before US prosecutors at the trial of an executive in Halkbank, property of the Turkish state accused of participating in a mbadive scheme of international money laundering to help Iran evade US sanctions.

Reza Zarrab, who pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, is expected to testify in Manhattan's federal court against the Halkbank executive Mehmet Hakan Atilla, in a case that has strained diplomatic relations between the United States and Turkey.

U.S. Prosecutors have charged nine people in the case, although it is known that only Zarrab and Atilla are in US custody. The other defendants include former Halkbank boss Suleyman Aslan and former Turkish Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan.

Prosecutors have said that the defendants executed a complex money laundering scheme that involved smuggling gold and counterfeiting food purchases to give Iran access to US dollars, in violation of US sanctions. UU

Assistant US Attorney David Denton told jurors in his opening statement Tuesday that Atilla had experience in economic sanctions he used to design transactions.

The government of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has said that the case was fabricated for political reasons, increasing tensions between the allies of NATO, Ankara and Washington. (Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York, edited by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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