The İstanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office has launched an investigation into the Acting US Attorney for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) re, former SDNY Attorney Preet Bharara, and some others who are involved in the prosecution of the Turkish Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab.
The investigation was launched on the grounds that the documents used in Zarrab’s case may have been stolen docs, fraud or of unknown content, a statement by the İstanbul Prosecutor’s Office read on Saturday. The investigation implicates Bharara, Kim and some other personnel of the prosecutor’s office.
Last year, Zarrab was charged by Bharara in Manhattan with conspiring to violate US sanctions on Iran, however he has recently failed to appear in court hearings before a final hearing, scheduled on Nov 27, raising allegations that he has agreed to cooperate.
Erdogan earlier demanded the release of Zarrab as well as the firing of former US Attorney Bharara, during a private meeting with then-US Vice President Joe Biden on Sept. 21, 2016, devoting half the 90-minute conversation to Zarrab, David Ignatius wrote for The Washington Post on Oct. 12.
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 Justice and Development Party (AKP) government and then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for having 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.
Turkey’s former economy minister Zafer Caglayan, a former suspect in the Turkish bribery investigation, was also charged in the Zarrab case in US.
Meanwhile, Bharara has accused Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu of lying over his claim that Bharara was “very close to FETÖ,” a derogatory term coined by Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to refer to the Gülen movement,
“Turkey FM is a liar,” Bharara tweeted. “Now let’s see what happens in court.”
Çavuşoğlu has been blaming Gülen movement for inciting a US investigation into a Turkish-Iranian gold trader, Reza Zarrab, and high-level Turkish officials including former Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan for money laundering and violating sanctions against Iran.
The investigation is a “political case”, Çavuşoğlu said in March, claiming that Bharara, the attorney who originally charged Zarrab, had “close ties to FETÖ” and that the case’s judge, Richard Berman, had come to Turkey to participate in “some political meetings”.
Bharara responded at the time in a brief statement to the New York Times: “I am not going to comment on false and silly political propaganda by a foreign official regarding a case that I no longer oversee.”
According to a report by Ahval online news outlet, Çavuşoğlu has repeated on Friday that the US investigation was “FETO-motivated,” and was quoted by AFP as saying, “all those indictments and files that they have fabricated here, they were taken back to the United States” in reference to a 2013 Turkish investigation which was shut down after prosecutors and police chiefs involved with the case were replaced by then-Prime Minister Erdoğan’s government.
According to Erdoğan’s mouthpiece Daily Sabah, there is “concrete evidence” linking the US judge and former prosecutor in the Reza Zarrab case to the Gülen movement. The daily has accused of Bharara for “using the same summary of proceedings used by Turkish police during the Dec. 17 operation.” Bharara, has also been criticised for retweeting a tweet that included a link to an article from news website Turkish Minute, established by former employees of the government-closed Today’s Zaman newspaper.
President Erdoğan on Oct. 24 strongly criticized the US administration for allegedly trying to force Zarrab to give them names from the Turkish government, saying he would explain all the details.
“They are driving him [Zarrab] into a corner, trying to make him an informer by saying, ‘If you mention those names, it [your prison term] will be this long, if you mention those names it will be that long’,” Erdoğan said, adding: “We are following this. We know how to set the world on fire when all those issues are done. We will tell all.”
Erdoğan demanded the release of Zarrab as well as the firing of then-US Attorney Bharara during a private meeting with then-US Vice President Joe Biden on Sept. 21, 2016, devoting half the 90-minute conversation to Zarrab, David Ignatius wrote for The Washington Post on Oct. 12.
“Erdogan’s campaign to free Zarrab has been extraordinary. He demanded his release as well as the firing of Bharara in a private meeting with then-Vice President Joe Biden on Sept. 21, 2016, in which U.S. officials say half the 90-minute conversation was devoted to Zarrab,” Ignatius wrote.
“Erdogan’s wife [Emine Erdoğan] pleaded the case that night to Jill Biden [wife of Biden]. Turkey’s then-justice minister, Bekir Bozdag, visited then-Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch in October to argue that the case was ‘based on no evidence’ and that Zarrab should be released.”
According to former aides, “Erdoğan appealed personally about the matter in his last two phone calls with President Barack Obama, in December and early January.
“Our operating assumption was that Erdoğan’s obsession with the case was that if it moved forward, information would come out that would damage his family, and ultimately him,” said one former senior Obama official, Ignatius noted. (SCF with turkeypurge.com)