As Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab revealed his tactics and accomplices within the Turkish government in violating US sanctions on Iran in New York federal court, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Tuesday said the case is an international coup attempt against Turkey, the Hürriyet daily reported.
“The case in the US is acrobatics without law or justice,” Erdoğan said during a Justice and Development Party (AKP) group meeting in Parliament in Ankara.
“This case is an international coup attempt in which Feto [a derogatory term coined by the ruling AKP to refer to the faith-based Gülen movement] is at the center of the process,” Erdoğan added.
“The plot mentioned in the indictment for the [Zarrab] case is true, but this plot is set against Turkey.”
Erdoğan claimed that the Zarrab case was being used as part of the domestic politics of the US.
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, 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.
The Turkish-Iranian gold trader on Monday said he made payments to secure his release in February 2014 and that those payments were partly bribes.