Referring to an arrest warrant from the US District Court for the Southern District of New York for former Turkish Economy Minister Mehmet Zafer Çağlayan, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ has said the US judiciary has become the tool of a plan by “FETÖ,” a derogatory term used by government circles to refer to the faith-based Gülen movement.
Bozdağ, who spoke to journalists on Monday after a Cabinet meeting, said the US judiciary was made a tool to achieve what people allegedly linked with the Gülen movement attempted, referring to a corruption probe that became public on Dec.17-25 in 2013, which implicated several members of then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s family, his inner circle and four former ministers, including Çağlayan. The probe was allegedly conducted by prosecutors affiliated with the Gülen movement to overthrow Erdoğan.
Arguing that no illegal economic transactions were conducted, Bozdağ said: “This is nothing but a repetition of the coup attempt that FETÖ attempted on Dec. 17-25 but could not achieve in the US by using the US judiciary.”
The arrest warrants were ordered from the US District Court for the Southern District of New York for former Turkish Economy Minister Çağlayan, former general manager of state-run Halkbank Süleyman Aslan, the bank’s assistant deputy manager of international banking Levent Balkan and Abdullah Happani, an employee of Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab.
Bozdağ claimed that the judge in the case, Richard Berman, had attended a conference in Turkey as moderator and criticized Turkey using the same language as Gülen movement supporters, who, Bozdağ said, invited and hosted Berman in Turkey following the corruption investigations.
“The US judiciary was today made a tool to deal with the plan by FETÖ. … Something very strange is going on here, we are all following it together, and this is part of a dirty game. There is no evidence, they are all fabrications,” said Bozdağ.
In the superseding indictment on the US PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) system, a handwritten note dated Sept. 6 saying that arrest warrants had been ordered appears at the end of the document charging four people, including Çağlayan, with conspiring to use the US financial system to conduct hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of transactions on behalf of the government of Iran and other Iranian entities barred by US sanctions.
The handwritten note says “Filed Indictment, Arrest Warrants ordered USMJ Parker,” a possible reference to US Magistrate Judge Katherine H. Parker.
The indictment that was filed by Joon H. Kim, the acting US attorney for the Southern District of New York on Wednesday, also charged four defendants with lying to US government officials about those transactions; laundering funds in connection with those transactions including millions of dollars in bribes to Cağlayan and others; and defrauding several financial institutions by concealing the true nature of the transactions.
According to a statement from the US Attorney’s Office on Wednesday, Çağlayan is alleged to have received tens of millions of dollars worth of bribes in cash and jewelry from the proceeds of the scheme to provide services to the government of Iran and to conceal those services from US government officials. Using his position as minister of the economy, Cağlayan directed other members of the scheme, including officers of Halkbank, to engage in certain types of deceptive transactions, approved the steps taken by other members to implement the scheme, and protected the scheme from competitors as well as from scrutiny. As a result, the co-conspirators induced US banks to unknowingly process international financial transactions in violation of sanctions on Iran.
Zarrab was the prime suspect in the graft probe in 2013, along with others from the inner circle of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government and the then-Prime Minister and present-President Erdoğan, for having paid bribes to Cabinet-level officials, including Çağlayan and Halkbank General Manager Aslan, 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.