Government chooses to hit CHP instead of talking Zarrab
After it became clear that Reza Zarrab would plead guilty and would testify against former state Halkbank manager Hakan Atilla in the Iran sanctions case in New York, the Turkish government focused on blasting opposition claims about President Tayyip Erdoğan’s relatives’ foreign currency transactions to an off-shore account.
Yesterday, hours before Iranian-Turkish gold trader Zarrab’s statement in court, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım in Ankara accused main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu of joining a “black propaganda” campaign against Turkey and President Tayyip Erdoğan through “baseless claims” about transactions. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) considers the Zarrab case to be part of a global conspiracy in which the U.S.-based Islamist preacher Fethullah Gülen plays the leading role. This conspiracy supposedly also includes the December 2013 corruption probes and the July 2016 military coup attempt.
Zarrab’s name became more widely known to Turkish public opinion after his arrest within the framework of the 2013 graft investigations. Those probes were later quashed and the police officers, prosecutors and judges involved were themselves prosecuted over their alleged membership of the illegal Gülen network within the state apparatus. Zarrab ended up being released and at one point received a kind of VIP treatment, including receiving a major “successful exporter” award.
After his boss Babak Zanjani in Iran was sentenced to death, and months before Turkey’s coup attempt, Zarrab was arrested in the U.S. He had traveled to Florida for a “family trip to Disneyland” but was arrested by the FBI over Iranian sanctions busting. Now, the fact that Zarrab has pleaded guilty and started accusing Atilla, who is now the only defendant in the case, suspicions in Turkey that his arrest was “arranged” all along are stronger.
An interesting detail is that Atilla’s lawyer says it was not his client who received bribes from Zarrab, but rather Atilla’s the-boss in Halkbank, Süleyman Aslan. Aslan is the man in whose house $4.5 million in cash was kept in shoe boxes in the December 2013 corruption probes. Aslan was arrested at the time but later released; the money was returned to him as he said it was for charity. He has since been appointed as a board member to another public bank, Ziraat.
As those interested in the subject are wondering who is the secret witness in the case, named “Individual 1,” in court documents.
But while many are focused on the case, the focus of Erdoğan and the AK Parti government – at least publicly – are on the CHP’s claims. Both Erdoğan and Yıldırım made very strong remarks against Kılıçdaroğlu, challenging him to present the necessary documents to court about alleged multi-billion dollar transactions to the Isle of Man.
Despite this focus from the AK Parti on Nov. 29, it seems that both it and the public will continue to closely follow the ongoing case in New York in the coming days.