United States (US) Attorney Preet Bharara announced in a tweet on Thursday that a New York court denied the bail request, citing escape risk, in the trial of Iranian billionaire Reza Zarrab, who was at the center of Turkey’s 2013 corruption and bribery scandal that led to the resignation of four Cabinet ministers.
“Federal judge denies bail for defendant Reza Zarrab, pending trial,” Bharara, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in his Twitter post.
Zarrab, who was arrested in March by US authorities while in Miami, is accused of bank fraud, money laundering and evading US sanctions on Iran. Bharara is seeking up to 75 years in prison against the gold trader. Zarrab’s alleged partner Babak Zanjani was recently sentenced to death in Iran for embezzlement.
In the recent weeks, Bharara submitted the court documents of over 200 pages in order to prevent Zarrab’s release on bail.
In Turkey, Zarrab was was a prime suspect in the Dec. 17, 2013 corruption scandal that shook the Turkish government to its core and resulted in 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. Erdoğan had 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.
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.
Three weeks ago, Zarrab’s attorney 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.