Some confidential documents to be unsealed in Zarrab case

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Some confidential documents concerning Iranian-Turkish gold trader Reza Zarrab, who back in 2017 struck a plea deal in a sanctions evasion trial in New York federal court, will be unsealed, Voice of America Turkish service reported on Wednesday.

Zarrab was the star witness in the trial where he, Mehmet Hakan Atilla, an executive at Turkey’s state-owned Halkbank, and seven other people, including Turkey’s former economy minister and two additional Halkbank executives, were 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, who previously had avoided justice in Turkey despite being the prime suspect in a massive corruption investigation implicating then-prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s cabinet and family, gave a detailed account of the scheme during his seven-day testimony and disappeared after his last appearance in court, on December 8, 2017, never to be seen again until last month, when he was spotted in Florida by a Turkish journalist.

Richard M. Berman, a judge for the Southern District of New York, who heard Zarrab’s trial, on November 1 sent a letter to the attorney’s office and the defense counsel, asking their positions regarding the unsealing of some of the confidential documents in the case file against Zarrab. 

In his letter dated November 15, Damian Williams, the US attorney for the Southern District of New York, informed the court that the government and defense counsel had no objection to the unsealing.

 

Some 50 documents have remained sealed since the start of the trial of Zarrab and Halkbank.

Judge Berman will decide which documents will be unsealed.

A document unsealed on November 1 had revealed that Zarrab had been released on bail in 2018.

Zarrab was arrested in Miami in 2016 for violating US sanctions on Iran before cooperating with US prosecutors in exchange for leniency, which led to the indictment and arrest of Attila in March 2017.

Last month, Adem Yavuz Arslan, a Turkish journalist living in exile working for the TR724 news website, published a report revealing Zarrab’s new identity. He is currently living in Davie, Florida, under the name of Aaron Goldsmith.

Zarrab testified in December 2017 that he had bribed former economy minister Mehmet Zafer Çağlayan in a scheme to smuggle gold for oil in violation of US sanctions on Iran and that then-prime minister and current president Erdoğan personally authorized the involvement of Turkish banks in the scheme although he was not charged in the case.

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