Zarrab hires Trump ally for defense, prosecutor objects due to conflict of interest

Reza Zarrab.

Reza Zarrab, a Turkish-Iranian gold trader who was arrested in Miami last year for violating US sanctions on Iran hired former mayor of New York City Rudolph Giuliani and former US Attorney General Michael Mukasey for his defense which was objected by the prosecutor for a potential conflict of interest on Monday.

According to a news story published on Tuesday by the New York Times, just last month, Giuliani and Mukasey, traveled to meet with the Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, as part of their efforts on behalf of Zarrab, according to a person briefed on the meeting who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the trip.

Zarrab, 33, who was born in Iran and moved to Turkey as an infant, has dual citizenship. He was arrested in March 2016 as he arrived on a trip to Miami, and was sent to New York to face charges. Prosecutors, arguing against bail, said Zarrab had used his considerable wealth and influence to be released from a prison in Turkey after he was detained there in 2013 as part of a corruption investigation of businessmen with close ties to Erdoğan, then Turkey’s prime minister.

Erdoğan has publicly criticized Zarrab’s prosecution in the US. According to news reports, Erdoğan said last fall that he had raised Zarrab’s case with then-US Vice President Joseph R. Biden, during talks at the United Nations, and Erdoğan also said there were “malicious” intentions in the prosecution, according to the reports.

According to acting US Attorney Joon Kim said in a letter to court that at least eight banks which were allegedly swindled by Zarrab are current or former clients of Giuliani and Mukasey.

The former prosecutor of the Zarrab case, US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara was recently fired by the Trump administration.

In February, a US District Court rejected an objection by Bharara over a conflict of interest in a law firm defending Zarrab. According to Bharara, there was a conflict of interest in that the law firm Kirkland & Ellis, which defends Zarrab, is also defending eight banks involved in the case. Zarrab canceled contracts with law firms Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP, and Clifford Chance US LLP.

The prosecutor who replaced Bharara said in his letter to court as Reuters reported that the banks’ relationships with the law firms require a special hearing to make sure Zarrab understands the potential conflict.

Reza Zarrab’s trial in the US has drawn much attention in Turkey as Zarrab was briefly detained in 2013 along with others from the inner circle of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government and President Erdoğan for having paid Cabinet-level officials and bank officers bribes to facilitate transactions benefiting Iran.

After then-Prime Minister and current President 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.

Zarrab has been charged in the US with facilitating millions of dollars in illicit transactions on behalf of Iran and other sanctioned entities through the use of front companies and false documentation. Prosecutors have said he “allegedly tricked numerous US financial institutions into processing barred transactions.” Zarrab has also been charged with conspiracies to commit money laundering and bank fraud. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges, and was ordered detained without bond. (SCF with March 28, 2017

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