Preet Bharara, the US attorney for the southern district of New York who indicted a Turkish-Iranian gold trader on charges of violation of US sanctions on Iran, met with US President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday and said he would stay on in his job at Trump’s request.
Speaking after the meeting at Trump Tower in Manhattan, Bharara said he had been invited by the president-elect to discuss remaining in his position and had made up his mind “to stay on.”
“The President-elect asked, presumably because he’s a New Yorker and is aware of the great work that our office has done over the past seven years … whether or not I’d be prepared to stay on as the United States attorney to do the work as we have done it, independently, without fear or favor for the last seven years,” Bharara told reporters.
He also added that “we had a good meeting. I said I would absolutely consider staying on. I agreed to stay on.”
Since the election, Trump has been meeting with figures in politics, law, security and finance while in the process of deciding on top-level figures for his new administration. Bharara, who has made public corruption a top priority, has brought down the leaders of both political parties in the US and was expected to be retained in his current position by Trump.
Bharara came to public notice in Turkey for overseeing a case prosecuting Reza Zarrab, a Turkish-Iranian gold trader who was arrested in Miami in March for violating US sanctions on Iran. Zarrab is currently in custody pending trial, scheduled to begin in October in New York.
Zarrab had also been arrested in Turkey in 2013 for bribing Turkish officials as part of an investigation implicating members of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government and people close to then-Prime Minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. He was released after the charges were dropped. The Turkish prosecutor and the police officers responsible for the investigation were either suspended or arrested after the AKP government, which claimed that the corruption investigation was an attempt by sympathizers of the faith-based Gülen movement in the state bureaucracy to overthrow the government.
In June of this year, US Federal Judge Richard Berman, who is hearing the case, rejected a request for Zarrab’s release on $50 million bail and detention in a luxury apartment in Manhattan. Zarrab’s situation in the US has also attracted the concern of Turkish officials, prompting Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ to insist on his release in a meeting with his American counterpart, US Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
To date, Zarrab remains in US custody.