Turkish gov’t detains US witness Reza Zarrab’s three employees in İstanbul

US-indicted gold trader Reza Zarrab had also bribed senior Turkish officials including Erdoğan's family members and inner circle.

Three employees of Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab were detained as part of the Turkish government’s latest response to the businessman’s guilty plea in a US trial that implicated Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s close circle.

Zarrab’s employees Sinem Arslan, Regaip Akol and Mustafa Hacısalihoğlu were rounded up at İstanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office, Hürriyet daily reported early Monday.

Among the accusations raised against the the detainees are “partly or fully destroying the documents related to the security of the state and its domestic and foreign interests; destroying or forging them; or using them in unrelated areas; illegally obtaining or stealing them,” Hürriyet reported. Police seized the documents they found at the suspects’ home.

According to a letter Turkish police have reportedly seized from Arslan’s house, Zarrab looked for ways to obtain residence permit in Dubai “If I cooperate with the prosecutors in the US.”

“Sinem, please meet up with the lawyer Abdurrahman Al Sharif in Dubai. … [Ask him] whether I might be able to move to Dubai after I cooperate with the prosecutors in the US and serve my sentence. [Ask him] if he can solve the residency issue when I am directly deported from the US to Dubai,” Zarrab reportedly told Sinem Arslan, one of his İstanbul employees.

Meanwhile, many top officials from Iran were involved in the sanctions-busting scheme of Iranian-Turkish gold trader Reza Zarrab, online news portal Iran Wire reported. Zarrab testified that he was in personal contact with then-Iran President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad and had referred to the scheme as “financial jihad” in a letter to the president.

He also met the head of Iran’s central bank, Mahmoud Bahmani, in relation to the scheme.

Other Iranian officials involved or aware of the scheme included the head of security of the central bank, hardline pro-Ahmedinejad parliamentarian Hamid Reza Rasaei and the head of currency trading at Bank Mellat.

Arrested in Miami in March 2016 on charges of evading US sanctions on Iran, Zarrab, 34, has pleaded guilty of the charges and agreed to cooperate with the prosecutor in bid to reduce or, if possible, avoid punishment.

Zarrab and 8 other people, including Turkey’s former economy minister Zafer Çağlayan 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 in which with others from the inner circle of the ruling AKP government and then-Prime Minister Erdoğan for having paid Cabinet-level officials and bank officers bribes to facilitate transactions benefiting Iran under UN and US sanctions.

Last week, an İstanbul prosecutor ordered the seizure of the assets of Zarrab and his relatives for leaking confidential information. (SCF with turkeypurge.com)

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