Released recording confirms Zarrab said Turkey’s Erdoğan approved Iran sanctions scheme

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

A recording released by a New York court as part of the evidence in the case of a Turkish banking executive being tried on charges of undermining U.S. sanctions on Iran has provided first-hand evidence that Iranian-Turkish gold trader Reza Zarrab, one of the masterminds behind the scheme, told others involved that it had the backing of then-Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and then-Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan, said a report by online news portal Ahval.

“Now, we started (the scheme through) Ziraat and Vakıf (state banks) as well,” Zarrab told Özgür Erker, a senior official at Arap-Türk Bank, according to the official court transcript.

“I spoke with Ankara,” Zarrab said. “Mr. Prime Minister and Ali Babacan gave approval. It’s finished already.”

On another recording of a phone call, released yesterday, Turkish state Halkbank CEO Süleyman Aslan could be heard making references to the scheme and saying that he was discussing it with “Mr. Minister”, a possible reference to then-Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan, who is alleged to have been heavily involved in the scheme.

Zarrab is alleged to have trafficked hundreds of millions of dollars to Iran in violation of US sanctions in collaboration with Turkish bankers and public officials.

After Zarrab made a plea bargain with the judge,  former Halkbank executive Mehmet Hakan Atilla remains the only defendant in the case.

Reports so far, based on notes sent to the judge by the jury, have suggested that jurors may have differences over the degree to which Atilla is guilty of the charges against him.

The jury have now retired for the holidays and will resume deliberations on the case on Jan. 3, 2018.

Click here for the full transcript

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