Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu on Tuesday shared an intelligence report showing that Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was warned about Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab’s relationships with several ministers.
In a report dated April 2013, the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) warned then-Prime Minister Erdoğan about Zarrab’s corrupt relations with Turkish Cabinet members. MİT also told Erdoğan that the US could add Zarrab to the list of people who violated sanctions on Iran and that the revelation of Zarrab’s relations with Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan and Interior Minister Muammer Güler would be used against the government.
Underlining that the report was submitted to Erdoğan nine months before corruption operations that went public on Dec. 17, 2013, Kılıçdaroğlu during his speech at the Arena Sports Hall in Ankara said: “You [Erdoğan] closed the file. Your government worked with Zarrab. Your government betrayed the Republic of Turkey.”
The CHP leader also condemned the pro-Erdoğan media that conducted an interview with Zarrab in front of a Turkish flag and the ministers who awarded Zarrab as a leading exporter.
“You [Erdoğan] knew everything from the beginning,” said Kılıçdaroğlu, calling on prosecutors who recently launched an investigation into Zarrab to fire the prosecutors and judges who released Zarrab and closed the case in 2014 and to investigate the government’s cooperation with Zarrab.
Kılıçdaroğlu has also called on the ruling Justice and Development (AKP) to set up a parliamentary committee to investigate the case of Turkish-Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab, who is currently a witness in a New York court case on evading sanctions on Iran. “I am making a candid and open call: Let’s re-open the file and set up an investigation commission at parliament. Let’s not leave the case to the US judiciary and instead clean up our own mess,” Kılıçdaroğlu said on Tuesday.
“The fact that a Turkish case is being conducted in the United States is disturbing my conscience. It is not right that the case is being tried in the US,” he added.
On Dec. 1, the Istanbul Prosecutor’s Office ruled for the seizure of the assets of Zarrab and his acquaintances, on suspicion that Zarrab procured sensitive information with the aim of conducting political and military espionage. CHP head Kılıçdaroğlu also urged AKP government to mobilize parliament to investigate further.
“Since the İstanbul Prosecutor’s Office has filed for investigation, let’s mobilize parliament and clean this smear. Let’s show that there is democracy and justice in Turkey, and that those who give bribes and accept bribes are being tried and prosecuted here,” Kılıçdaroğlu said.
“Who has provided such sensitive information to Zarrab? All of it was provided by your ministers and by your government. Your government has betrayed the Republic of Turkey. It has given all state secrets to Zarrab in exchange for money,” he added, accusing Erdoğan of “covering up” the initial investigation on Zarrab and his relations with former AKP ministers and politicians.
ERDOĞAN STILL CLAIMS ZARRAB CASE AN INT’L COUP ATTEMPT
However, President Erdoğan has still claimed on Tuesday that the Zagreb case in the US is an international coup attempt against Turkey. “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 and Erdoğan 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.
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, Turkey on Tuesday detained a total of 17 people who allegedly sent documents to the US, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.
According to the report police sources said three of the suspects had been previously detained, and the remainder were taken into custody on Tuesday as part of an investigation launched into Zarrab by the İstanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office.
Three suspects — identified as Sinem A., Regaip A. and Mustafa H. — were working with Zarrab and allegedly sent documents to the US concerning the legal proceedings in which he is testifying as a key witness there, noted the report.
The property of Zarrab and his family members was seized on Thursday as part of an investigation into espionage and providing confidential official information to a foreign government, launched by the Istanbul Public Prosecutor’s Office. According to a media report, the decision was taken as a measure to prevent Zarrab from smuggling his property outside Turkey.
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.
Police notes of the Dec. 17 operations show that Zarrab personally talked with Erdoğan on April 13, 2013 and asked for an official police guard. Erdoğan and his Cabinet approved it immediately.
A phone call and a video in the Dec.17 file show that Zarrab in July 2013 sent an unspecified amount of money to the Service for Youth and Education Foundation of Turkey (TÜRGEV), a foundation run by Bilal Erdoğan, Erdoğan’s son.
Zarrab who was arrested in the US in March 2016, 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 testified in federal court on Wednesday that he had bribed Turkey’s former economy minister, 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. (SCF with turkishminute.com)