İstanbul’s Anadolu Public Prosecutor’s Office has launched an investigation into Turkish-Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab, who has been held in a New York prison since March 2016 for violating US sanctions against Iran, for contravening Turkey’s construction law while renovating a historic mansion in the Kandilli neighborhood of İstanbul’s Üsküdar district.
According to the CNNTürk website, the indictment seeks a prison term up of to 10 years for Zarrab and Firuz Akın Han, owner of the renovation company, for “causing construction pollution” and “violating Law No. 2863 of the code for protection of cultural and natural properties.”
The mansion, which Zarrab bought for $25 million, was locked up and sealed in February 2015 after main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputies Hüseyin Sağ and Hakkı Sağlam filed a criminal complaint for unlicensed stories added to the building.
As the indictment has been accepted by the İstanbul 9th Criminal Court of First Instance, the trial will begin in absentia in the coming days, CNNTürk said.
Zarrab’s trial in the US has drawn much attention in Turkey as he was briefly detained in 2013 along with others from the inner circle of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government and then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for having paid Cabinet-level officials and bank officers bribes to facilitate transactions benefiting Iran.
After 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.
When he arrived in Miami in March 2016 for a holiday in Florida with his wife and daughter, Zarrab was arrested at the airport as part of an investigation by Preet Bharara, the US attorney for the southern district of New York.
In December, Bharara, who indicted Zarrab on charges of violation of US sanctions on Iran, added new evidence to his indictment, claiming Deutsche Bank and Bank of America were swindled by Zarrab.
On Nov. 8, Bharara also charged Mohammad Zarrab, the brother of Reza Zarrab, with evading US sanctions on Iran in a superseding indictment accusing both men of conspiring to conduct hundreds of millions of dollars in transactions on behalf of Iran.
According to the indictment, Bharara claims that Zarrab, 33, participated in transactions to benefit Iran-based Mahan Air, which the US government has sanctioned for providing services to Iran’s Quds Force as well as Hezbollah.
Estimates of the amount of transactions Zarrab had allegedly made through US banks between 2007 and 2016 had risen from $1.5 billion to $6.5 billion, Bharara said.
US Federal Judge Richard Berman postponed Zarrab’s trial date to Aug. 21, 2017, which was earlier announced to be Oct. 16, 2017. However, procedural hearings will continue until the start of the trial.