US attorney in Zarrab case submits graft documents that implicate former Turkish ministers

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Former European Affairs Minister Egemen Bagış (L), Interior Minister Muammer Güler (C) and Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan (R), who were forced to resign following a graft scandal in 2013, chat as they wait for the arrival of then- Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan at Esenboga Airport in Ankara December 24,

US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara on Tuesday submitted new documents to a court in the case of Iranian-Turkish gold-trader Reza Zarrab revealing that he bribed several officials in Turkey, including former ministers.

According to details in the 400 pages of new documents, Zarrab bribed Turkish officials with millions of dollars. One of the Turkish officials that Zarrab bribed is Turkey’s former Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan, who resigned after the eruption of a graft scandal on Dec. 17, 2013.

Screen shots of the documents, which are available in the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system and were shared by a number of journalists following the case, show the transfer of millions of US dollars, euros and Turkish lira to Çağlayan’s accounts in Turkey and abroad.

Bharara said in a recent statement that the Turkish government has made several attempts to interfere with the prosecution of Zarrab.

Zarrab’s trial in the US has drawn much attention in Turkey as Zarrab was briefly detained in 2013 along with others from the inner circle of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for having paid Cabinet-level officials and bank officers bribes to facilitate transactions benefiting Iran.

After then-Prime Minister and current Present President Erdoğan cast the case as a coup attempt to overthrow his government orchestrated by his political enemies, several prosecutors were removed from the case, police were reassigned and the investigation against Zarrab was dropped.

What disturbed Erdoğan and other Turkish officials is that US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Bharara’s office cited a 2013 corruption investigation into Erdoğan and other Cabinet members in the Zarrab indictment in New York.

US authorities arrested Zarrab in Miami in March on charges of violating US sanctions on Iran and helping Iran process millions of dollars of transactions when it faced US sanctions for its nuclear program.

In a memo submitted to a federal judge in a Manhattan court in May, Bharara said that Iranian businessman Zarrab had acquired “tremendous wealth” to buy homes and yachts but also “to buy access to corrupt politicians in Turkey.” He also said that there are close ties between Zarrab and high-ranking Turkish officials, including Erdoğan.

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