A new phase in the US special counsel’s investigation into former national security advisor Michael Flynn may have just begun with the release from a federal prison in New York of Turkish-Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab, due to stand trial later this month for allegedly evading US sanctions on Iran, CNBC reported.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating a December meeting Flynn had with representatives of the Turkish government during which Flynn was reportedly offered up to $15 million to deliver an Islamic cleric to Turkey who is accused by Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of masterminding an attempted coup last July.
But the probe is also looking into whether Flynn discussed ways to free Zarrab at the meeting, according to NBC News. If Zarrab has any information about a deal that was reportedly floated for his release, it could prove damaging for Flynn.
The Daily Beast reported on Thursday that Zarrab had been removed from a federal correctional facility in New York City, leading to speculation that he could be cooperating with the government, although a spokesperson for the US attorney’s office said Zarrab remains in federal custody. He was apparently moved on Nov. 8, three days after NBC News reported that the special counsel had enough evidence to bring charges against Flynn. The New York Times also reported certain signs that Zarrab could have pleaded guilty, including a halt to new court filings.
The judge presiding over Zarrab’s trial on Thursday refused to say if the wealthy businessman would stand trial for circumventing UN sanctions on Iran with one of his alleged co-conspirators on Nov. 27. “The one perk that comes with being a judge is you don’t have to answer questions as witnesses and lawyers do,” US District Judge Richard Berman told the attorney for co-defendant Mehmet Hakan Attila, a banker from Turkey’s Halkbank.
Meanwhile, Reza Zarrab and his lawyers didn’t attend the hearing held on Thursday. There was an interim hearing yesterday before the jury trial begins on November 27. Halkbank executive Mehmet Hakan Atilla, who is also facing up to 95 years in prison, and his lawyers were present in the court. Judge Richard Berman rejected Atilla’s lawyers’ objection to the final indictment. (SCF with turkishminute.com)