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US court rejects Bharara’s objection to conflict of interest in Zarrab case

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A US District Court on Wednesday rejected an objection by US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara over a conflict of interest in a law firm defending Reza Zarrab, a Turkish-Iranian gold trader who was arrested in Miami in March for violating US sanctions on Iran.

During a hearing on Wednesday, the court rejected Bharara’s objection and set the next hearing for August.

In December of last year, Bharara added new evidence to his indictment, claiming Deutsche Bank and Bank of America were swindled by Zarrab.

He said 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.

According to Bharara, there is a conflict of interest in that the law firm Kirkland & Ellis, which defends Zarrab, is also defending eight banks involved in the case.

Zarrab canceled contracts with law firms Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP, and Clifford Chance US LLP.

According to the indictment, Bharara claims that Zarrab, 33, also 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.

Bharara also charged Mohammad Zarrab, the brother of Reza Zarrab, on Nov. 8 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.

Reza 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 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.

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