Turkey freezes assets of gold trader testifying in US sanctions case

December 3, 2017

Ankara-Turkey (Dec 3)  Turkish prosecutors ordered the assets of gold trader Reza Zarrab to be seized Friday as he testified in Manhattan on his role in a scheme to evade U.S. sanctions against Iran.

The Istanbul prosecutor's office froze Zarrab's assets as well as those of his close relatives and acquaintances, Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency reported.

The Turkish-Iranian testified in U.S. court earlier this week that he bribed Turkey's former economic minister, Mehmet Zafer Caglayan, as part of a scheme to smuggle gold for oil in violation of U.S. sanctions against Iran.

Zarrab, 34, became the star witness when he agreed to cooperate with U.S. authorities to describe the details of the complex sanctions-busting operation to the court.

He used markers and poster-board to draw diagrams explaining how the money-laundering scheme worked.

Zarrab estimated he paid Caglayan more than $60 million, as prosecutors showed the jury a partial list of bribes he paid to the economic minister including 31 million euros, $4 million in U.S. dollars and 2.4 million Turkish lira.

Zarrab testified in the trial of Turkish banker Mehmet Hakan Atilla, the only one of nine defendants in the case not in Turkey.

Last month Zarrab secretly pleaded guilty to charges that he conspired to violate the U.S. sanctions placed on Iran and agreed to testify against Atilla.

"Cooperation was the fastest way to accept responsibility and to get out of jail at once," he told a prosecutor on Wednesday.

Zarrab was arrested in the United States in March 2016, after landing in a private jet with $100,000 to spend on a family vacation in Disney World.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said he hoped Zarrab would "turn back from his mistake" in cooperating with the case. Turkish officials believe the case is aimed at putting political pressure on Ankara.


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