United States (US) Attorney Preet Bharara stated that respect for other countries’ judiciary does not necessarily include complying with the decision of a single Turkish prosecutor, who closed Turkey’s massive corruption investigation that is linked to the trial of Iranian-Turkish billionaire Reza Zarrab ongoing in the US.
In his recent petition submitted to the New York court, Bharara emphasized that the Turkish prosecutor, who dropped charges against Zarrab, was deliberately put in charge of the case, after the prosecutors and police officers who initiated the investigation were discharged and prosecuted. Bharara’s petition came in response to yesterday’s request from Zarrab’s lawyer for release on $50 million bond.
The defense lawyer claimed that the content of Turkey’s closed graft case could not be considered evidence in the US trial. However, according to Bharara, the closure of the major graft case in Turkey that involved Zarrab is proof of his bribery relations with the Turkish officials. Richard Berman, the judge of Manhattan federal court handling the trial, declared confidentiality on documents concerning Zarrab.
Zarrab is accused of conspiring to violate US sanctions on Iran, bank fraud and money laundering. He is facing up to 75 years of imprisonment.
In Turkey, Zarrab was at the center of the Dec. 17, 2013 corruption investigation that shook the Turkish government to its core and led to the resignation of four ministers. He was accused of bribing Turkish Cabinet ministers in exchange of favorable financial dealings as part of a scheme to evade US-led Iranian sanctions. The twin graft investigations targeted President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his inner circle.
Zarrab was among 21 people — including the sons of three then-ministers, a district mayor, a director of a state-owned bank and other high-profile figures — who were arrested as part of the corruption and bribery operation that went public on Dec. 17, 2013 in a series of simultaneous police raids. Zarrab and all the other suspects were released and the charges were dropped after a government move that dismissed the prosecutors who oversaw the investigation, after then-Prime Minister Erdoğan called the investigation a “coup attempt.” In addition, thousands of prosecutors, judges and police chiefs were reassigned, dismissed or imprisoned for taking part in the corruption investigation.
President Erdoğan earlier described Zarrab as a “philanthropist” following allegations that he generously bribed ministers in turn for favors ranging from getting a Turkish citizenship and evading customs for controversial shipments.
Last week, Zarrab’s attorney Benjamin Brafman said his jailed client donated a total amount of $4,6 million to a non-profit group called Togem-Der (Social Development Center of Education and Social Solidarity Association), which was founded by Erdoğan’s wife, First Lady Emine Erdoğan.
The first lady’s foundation immediately closed down its website, after it became public that Zarrab wasn’t listed as a donor in the Togem-Der’s website where Erdoğan’s two daughters and dozens of business tycoons across Turkey are named on the list.