Zarrab is no angel

Zarrab is no angel

Who is Reza Zarrab? An international gold merchant? A wizard who launders every type of clandestine earning and every shade of black money? A magician who knows how to bypass embargoes, sanctions and trade restrictions on oil and gas?

Is he someone with enough cheek to offer women and money to the guards of an American detention center? Is he a devil or an angel of bygone days? He was certainly a darling of the Turkish state until he decided to publically expose the dirty laundry of Turkey’s sacrosanct personalities.

Zarrab was no angel yesterday, nor will he be an angel today or tomorrow.

His testimony in 2014, while he was still in Turkey, was certainly awesome though. Sitting in front of a Turkish flag he rejected the charges. Apparently it was indeed normal for any Turkish national to a buy a watch worth thousands of dollars and get an invoice written on a tissue paper.

If sanctions were busted, was it Turkey or an international agency that imposed sanctions on Iran? Why should Zarrab be held accountable for violating sanctions on Iran, or money laundering, or conducting illicit gold trade in which hundreds of kilograms of gold vanished at Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport?

No big deal. He was a young, talented and brave Turkish merchant. He was even presented with the “Businessman of the Year” award by a minister wearing an expensive watch, a man recently accused of collaborating with the same, albeit transformed “evil Zarrab,” in illegal money, gold, oil and gas transactions.

Only yesterday Turkey was busy expressing concern about Zarrab, who had dropped off the radar for a few weeks. The concern was so deeply felt that for the first time in the history of Turkish-American relations the Turkish Republic presented two diplomatic notes to the American state, officially demanding information about Zarrab’s whereabouts. Meanwhile our almighty president opened his big black eyes as wide as he could and yelled at the Americans: “Zarrab is our citizen, we care about the situation of our citizens abroad.”

He was right. Whenever a Turk faces difficulty abroad, the Turkish state usually stands firmly by his side. The Americans are not the only ones to have suffered from such attention. Even our Saudi brethren sometimes have trouble decapitating Turks accused of drug trafficking or some other nasty crime. Of course, the Turkish state would never lie to anyone; if it claims to take an interest in the problems of Turks abroad then this must be the case.

When the trial began, Zarrab went from being a defendant to a key witness. His subsequent testimonies shone a light on the dirty laundry of certain Turkish banks and key politicians. Humiliated and betrayed, the Turkish state was quick to highlight the devilish qualities of its old friend.

Some people used to claim that he was an Iranian spy. This could be true. How could a single individual engage in so many discreet, illegal and mostly unethical deals with Iran without the support of its “deep state”? Indeed, Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency (MİT) once issued a report warning the government and top bureaucrats of Zarrab’s links to the Iranian secret service, highlighting his untrustworthiness and the problems his shady dealings could cause Turkey.

Does anyone remember the top banker from whose house millions of dollars stashed in shoeboxes were confiscated during the December 2013 corruption raids? No one knows where he is now, even though the confiscated money was handed back to him, together with accrued interest, while the judges, prosecutors and police officers involved in the operation all received punishments. Now these people are accused of having links to the “Fetullah Gülen Terrorist Organization” (FETÖ). This could be true. After all, they all slept in the same bed.

As Zarrab’s confessions continue in the New York courtroom, government-linked voices in the Turkish media continue to sling mud at Zarrab while the justice minister pushes ahead with efforts to prove the FETÖ links of every judge and prosecutor involved in the case. 

Politics is a very difficult game, especially when your angelic friends turn out to be devils.

yusuf kanlı, hdn, Opinion