Former Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu on Sunday criticized the court in New York where Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab revealed his tactics and accomplices in the Turkish government in violating US sanctions on Iran but called on the government to question whoever took bribes, Sputnik reported.
“Documents presented in the New York court are null and void for us due to their relevance for Dec. 17-25. Anyone who gains unearned income or accepts bribes must be questioned,” Davutoğlu said, adding: “We respect international law and have done whatever is necessary. We have never been hypocritical when it comes to the embargo against Iran. We have never complied with the US’s one-sided embargo; we can not. We said that before, we are saying the same thing now and we will say this until the end of the world.”
Zarrab and eight other people, including Turkey’s former economy minister and three Halkbank executives, have been charged with engaging in transactions worth hundreds of millions of dollars for Iran’s government and Iranian entities from 2010 to 2015 in a scheme to evade US sanctions.
Zarrab was the prime suspect in a major corruption investigation in Turkey that became public in December 2013 and implicated the inner circle of the ruling AKP government and then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Zarrab was alleged to have 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 in Turkey.
Zarrab testified in federal court on Wednesday that he had bribed Turkey’s former economy minister, Mehmet Zafer Çağlayan, in a billion-dollar scheme to smuggle gold for oil in violation of US sanctions on Iran.
On Thursday Zarrab said that Turkey’s then-prime minister and current president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, personally authorized the involvement of Turkish banks in a scheme to evade US sanctions on Iran.
Zarrab also said for the first time on Thursday that Turkey’s Ziraat Bank and VakıfBank were involved in the scheme and that former Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan signed off with Erdoğan on the operation.