Iran link documented in official report for Turkey’s corruption probe
Arda Akın - ISTANBULA customs ministry report has showed that several companies of Reza Zarrab, an Iranian-Turkish businessman who was embroiled in Turkey’s huge graft probe that went public in December 2013, made both money and gold transfers to Babek Zencani, another Iranian businessman currently imprisoned in Iran on accusations of corruption.
“The inspections have indicated that Zencani and Zarrab, and their companies have trade relations,” said the report, which was seen by daily Hürriyet.
Daily Hürriyet has found the report on Reza Zarrab, which was prepared by the Customs and Trade Ministry inspectors 11 months ago. The report showed money and gold transportations between the companies of Zarrab and Zencani.
Although the report openly shows business relations between the two businessmen, it has been kept at the ministry with no official steps taken about the claims for approximately 11 months.
The report, which was prepared upon an order from the then-Customs Minister Hayati Yazıcı after the Dec. 17 investigations in 2013, was finalized in Aug. 8, 2014 and presented to ministry officials. A number of foreign trade transactions and money transfers of Zarrab’s 43 companies to and from Turkey, Iran, China, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Russia between 2011 and 2013 were taken under the scope of the report, which was prepared under the signature of the ministry’s chief inspector and accepted by the ministry’s guidance and inspection chief.
$8 bln worth of gold transported
According to the report, Zarrab’s Royal Shipping transferred 5.1 million Turkish Liras to one of Zencani’s companies on May 10, 2012, through the Istanbul branch of Bank Mellat.
The report has also showed that Zarrab’s another company, Ravanda Ltd, exported 942 kg of gold to Zencani’s SCT CO/SCT Banker in 2012.
The report emphasized Zarrab’s companies made currency transfers specifically to Dubai, Iran and Russia in significant amounts, according to the framework of the Law on Preservation of the Turkish Lira’s Value, via couriers. The report also revealed that Zarrab’s Royal Shipping exported 151.1 tons of gold (a value of about $8 billion) to Iran and the UAE between 2012 and 2014, according to the report.
Companies launched by couriers, cleaners
The report also named several shadow companies established in the names of Zarrab’s couriers. For instance, a joint stock company, which made millions of dollar of revenue, was established by a 22 year-old cleaner based in the southeastern province of Kilis, who has close ties with Zarrab. One of the couriers of Zarrab was also detected to have launched a company for an equity capital of 3 million liras.
“It was seen that these people and their partners do not actually have enough capital to set up that big of companies,” said the report.
Zarrab’s Volgam Gıda, which was recently awarded for its jewelry exports in 2014, was also examined in detail. The information revealed by the report has, however, left many questions regarding the company’s activities. While inspectors proved that Volgam Gıda had exported 110 kg of gold to a Dubai-based company for $4.7 million through a number of official documents, Zarrab claimed the company had made only food exports in his written declarations to the inspectors. In the report, customs inspectors stated doubts regarding the declarations made by Volgam Gıda.
Claims denied amid suspicious declarations
Some 1.5 tons of gold were caught in an ULS Airways airplane in January 2013. It was claimed that the gold plates found were smuggled illegally from Ghana and the rent price of the airplane was paid by one of Babek Zencani’s companies, Kont Group Cosmetics Ltd. Zencani was then accused of “putting gold” into Turkey through Zarrab’s companies, as he could not put the gold’s monetary equivalent into international markets due to sanctions on Iran.
Zarrab’s advocate rejected claims about the business relations between Zencani and Zarrab.
“All members of the Iranian Parliament can come and examine. It is nonsense to claim any relation between the two. They have nothing in common,” Zarrab’s advocate said.
Iran’s Ankara ambassador, Alireza Bikdeli, said Iran had no documents showing any ties between Zarrab and Zencani.