Forbes on Zarrab case: Erdoğan’s family members and his cronies will possibly unable to go abroad

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (L) and Turkish-Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab.

Forbes, an influential American bi-weekly business magazine, has reported on Friday that if Turkey’s ruling elite comes under US sanctions that will put Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan under enormous pressure and his cronies and possibly his family members unable to go abroad.

Analysing the case in which Mehmet Hasan Atilla, a Turkish banker charged with violating US sanctions on Iran in the New York court in that a Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab a key prosecution witness, Forbes wrote that “There could be a battle down the line with the Trump administration trying to send Gülen to Turkey. These are the early skirmishes,” after pointing out that “The Fethullah Gülen detail too seems fecund. Remember it was Attila’s defense lawyers in Turkey’s pay who asked Zarrab about it. The prosecution didn’t object.”

The magazine has continued to wrote that “If Turkey’s ruling elite comes under US sanctions that certainly won’t happen. But sanctions will equally certainly put Erdoğan under enormous pressure – with his cronies unable to go abroad and possibly his family members too. From there on, anyone in Turkey seen to be aiding and abetting Erdoğan’s regime, from bankers to media mouthpieces to businessmen, will feel globally stigmatized. And voters won’t like their country isolated and shamed. They may even unseat Erdoğan.”

Forbes has also analysed the Michael Flynn connection with the the case on Turkish government’s violations of Iran sanctions  and stated that “What were the Feds really going after in this trial? The inside gossip says that having flipped Zarrab they were able to flip General (Michael) Flynn and that was their prime purpose.”

The report added that “Once Flynn knew that Zarrab was talking about monies paid to Flynn while Flynn was in Trump’s government the game was over. The Feds had Flynn. What monies? As variously reported, Flynn reportedly took $15 million from Turkey but didn’t officially register as the agent of a foreign government until March 2017. Apparently he hoped to get Zarrab out of jail and to deliver Fethullah Gülen to Turkey, the Muslim cleric in Pennsylvania that Erdoüan accuses of launching the failed military coup in Turkey.”

Zarrab, who is a key prosecution witness in the New York trial of Turkey’s state-run lender Halkbank’s deputy general manager Mehmet Hasan Atilla who has been charged with violating US sanctions on Iran, said that he resumed violating sanctions upon the order of then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Thursday.

Zarrab has confirmed the existence of text messages to his lawyers in Turkey saying that he had restarted violating US sanctions on Iran in June 2014 at the order of Erdoğan and his son-in-law and current Energy Minister Berat Albayrak after he was released from a Turkish prison on Feb. 28, 2014.

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.

The gold trader had been held in a New York prison awaiting trial but said today he was removed after a fellow inmate pulled a knife and tried to kill him for cooperating with prosecutors, part of a plea deal agreed by Zarrab part to lessen his prison sentence.

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 Justice and Development Party (AKP) government and then-Prime Minister 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.

The Turkish-Iranian gold trader on Monday told the New York court that he made payments to secure his release in February 2014 and that those payments were partly bribes.

Zarrab, who was arrested in the US in March 2016, testified in federal court last week that he had bribed Turkey’s former economy minister, Zafer Çağlayan, in a billion-dollar scheme to smuggle gold for oil in violation of US sanctions on Iran.

Zarrab said that Erdoğan personally authorized the involvement of Turkish banks in the scheme to evade US sanctions on Iran.

Zarrab also said for the first time 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.

While Zarrab revealed his tactics and accomplices within the Turkish government in violating US sanctions on Iran in New York federal court, President Erdoğan said that the case was an international coup attempt against Turkey.

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