Let’s not talk about the unknown. Did Reza Zarrab, a Turkish businessman of Iranian origin, go to the U.S. knowing he would be arrested? Is the U.S. attorney Preet Bharara going to suggest that Ankara has been trying to protect Zarrab from Turkey’s Dec. 17, 2013 corruption case?
We do not know the answers to these questions. We will learn more when Zarrab appears in front of a judge in Miami for the second time on April 4, but until then everything is speculation.
However, there are quite a number of clues in the indictment. One is the Mapna connection; another is the issue of the seizure of Zarrab’s properties.
One of the most striking sections of the indictment prepared by Bharara is the one that demonstrates that the Mapna Group, one of Iran’s biggest construction and energy companies, is involved in one of the illegal money transfers made by Zarrab’s companies.
The money movements are listed in the indictment, and the prosecutor also included the Mapna connection regarding an amount to be sent to Canada. Later, a transfer of about $1 million was made with a U.S. bank, without using the name Mapna.
Why is this important? It is important because Mapna is a company with strong connections to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
According to research by the Washington-based think tank, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), current Mapna CEO Abbas Aliabadi was Iran’s deputy minister of energy in 2008 and 2009. Another Mapna executive is Musa Refan, who is a first air force commander in the IRGC.
So what is Mapna’s connection to Turkey? The same Mapna has two companies in Turkey, where CEO Aliabadi is a partner. In one of them, MS Uluslararası Enerji Yatırım AŞ, the other partner is Sıtkı Ayan, the owner of Som Petrol. He is the businessman who, one day before the Dec. 17, 2013 operations began, was granted the second biggest incentive in Turkey’s history by the government. Ayan had said at the time that he would build the pipeline to carry Iranian natural gas to Germany for 11.5 billion Turkish Liras.
The second important section in the Bharara indictment is the part where he demands the seizure of Zarrab’s properties. This is important because now the U.S. will search all Zarrab and Zarrab-affiliated companies. And it will disclose all the connections and details of Zarrab’s operations in Turkey.
We saw in the Babek Zencani trial in Iran what kind of consequences this may have. Zencani was convicted of cheating Iran of $2.8 billion and sentenced to death there. Zencani’s companies in Turkey were also asked to be returned to Iran.
For instance, the Iranian oil minister opened a case for the return of Onur Air, which Zencani had indirectly bought. Other companies involved are Ten Tour, Simin Gemi, Sunlight Holding, Günbey Gayrimenkul and Aspendos Gemi.
It is not rocket science to understand that a return case opened in Tehran may not be so significant, but the consequences of a case opened by Washington would be different.
There is no need to research the unknown. There are enough important details in the Zarrab indictment to suggest the direction the case in going to take.