Published: Thu, November 30, 2017
World | By Melba Underwood

Turkish-Iranian gold trader begins testimony at U.S. trial

Turkish-Iranian gold trader begins testimony at U.S. trial

Reza Zarrab, who has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with USA prosecutors in the criminal trial of a Turkish bank executive, told jurors in federal court in Manhattan that he helped Iran use funds deposited in Turkey's state-owned Halkbank HALKB.IS to buy gold, which was smuggled to Dubai and sold for cash.

Zarrab said he and Atilla were key players in an global financial scheme to get Iranian oil-sale profits back to that country despite US sanctions against such transactions.

In this courtroom sketch Judge Richard Berman, second from right, and prosecuting Assistant U.S. Attorney Sidhardha Kamarju, far right, listen as Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab, second from left, with the aide of an unidentified interpreter, far left, describe a scheme using a diagram he drew, outlining how he helped Iran evade U.S. economic sanctions Wednesday Nov. 29, 2017, in NY.

Kamaraju asked him if the talks, which included a meeting with Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, were successful.

"Stay tuned", defense attorney Cathy Fleming said Tuesday when asked for more details about Zarrab's activities behind bars.

Court documents unsealed on November 28 showed that Zarrab, 34, pleaded guilty to bank fraud, money laundering, and other charges secretly on October 26.

Although he didn't name them, Zarrab told jurors that he chose to inform on co-conspirators in the alleged billion-dollar scheme after he "hired lawyers" to try to work out a prisoner swap "within the legal limits" and the effort failed.

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Atilla, a 47-year-old former deputy CEO of Halkbank, has pleaded not guilty.

Turkey's banking regulator last month denied a local media report that six Turkish lenders could face substantial fines from the United States over alleged violations of Iran sanctions.

But U.S. prosecutor Denton said the charges were dropped because bribes were paid to top Turkish officials and led to a purge of Turkish law enforcement and the jailing of some investigators.

The defense will paint him as an untrustworthy turncoat who is using Atilla as a "get out of jail free card" and is being "coddled" by federal authorities even after he bribed a Manhattan jail guard for access to liquor, women and a phone. "They did not see the light of the day, until now, until this trial in NY", he said. He said Atilla and Halkbank's then-general manager, Suleyman Aslan, instructed him how to carry it out.

Rocco countered by saying the real mastermind was Zarrab, who he said made "hundreds of millions of dollars he used to buy jets and yachts and people".

By contrast, his client Atilla "is not corrupt", he told the jury.

Earlier this year, Zarrab hired former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, an ally of U.S. President Donald Trump, in a failed effort to broker a diplomatic settlement of the case.

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