Sanctions trial witness says he got $50,000 from FBI
NEW YORK/ ANKARA
A fugitive police officer sought over links to the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ) said he received financial aid from the FBI during a trial into a former Turkish bank executive held in the United States.
Former police officer Hüseyin Korkmaz acknowledged receiving financial assistance from the U.S. government, including $50,000 from the FBI and housing assistance from prosecutors, Courthouse News reported on Dec. 12.
Cooperating with the prosecutors, Korkmaz has been testifying against the former Halkbank deputy general manager Mehmet Hakan Atilla.
Another name cooperating with the prosecutor is Turkish-Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab, who was arrested in the Miami last year over violating U.S. sanctions on Iran.
Zarrab’s name was involved in the corruption probes in Turkey from Dec. 17-25, 2013, which also embroiled four former ministers and other state officials. Zarrab was accused of paying bribes to senior government figures but eventually the charges were quashed by the government, which said the probe was masterminded by followers of the U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen.
After getting arrested in the U.S., Zarrab become the prosecution’s top witness in the trial, leaving Atilla as the sole man on the dock accused of violating sanctions, bribery and money laundering.
Atilla’s trial continued on Dec. 12 with the testimony of Korkmaz, who said he received financial aid from the U.S. authorities but had not asked for it.
Along the way, Korkmaz claimed that Turkish police were watching Halkbank’s former general manager Süleyman Aslan, former Turkish Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan and former Interior Minister Muammer Güler.
On Dec. 12, Korkmaz turned his sights to the man on trial, referring to evidence that he said he found on Zarrab’s cellphone.
“I spoke to Hakan,” Zarrab said in a transcript of a phone conversation, according to Korkmaz. “They’re going to transfer soon.”
Korkmaz added later that he recognized the last four digits of two phone numbers: Atilla’s and Zarrab’s.
Such testimony could prove crucial for prosecutors to prove that Atilla played an important role in a scheme in which his attorneys contend he was at best, a minor player.
Before fleeing Turkey, Korkmaz said, he gathered all of the evidence of the cases he had been building and prosecutors entered more of that evidence into the record.
Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ has blasted the New York trial as a “plot against Turkey,” saying Zarrab was “forced to confess” in a case “that includes FETÖ members.”
“Zarrab was put under pressure either with the threat of punishment or on the hope of being released. Would you seek justice in this case?” Bozdağ told parliament during 2018 budget talks on Dec. 12.
“FETÖ terrorists are witnesses in the trial,” he said.
“Recent testimonies have surfaced. The FETÖ terrorist who carried out the Dec. 17 investigation is there and says he ‘brought the documents and pieces of paper.’ He is a witness. Another witness is a fugitive FETÖ banker and his signature is on a piece of paper that is a so-called report there. An official expert was appointed from a non-governmental organization financially supported by FETÖ,” Bozdağ said, noting that the case’s judge Richard Berman visited Turkey in 2014.
“The judge carrying out the trial was brought to Turkey in May 2014 by FETÖ members. This judge released a statement of support regarding the Dec. 17-25 process here,” he added.
“But it is impossible for them to finish a plot in the U.S. that started in Turkey,” Bozdağ said, decrying “lies and smears” in the trial.
“This is a plot and all of those [allegations] were investigated by prosecutors in Turkey. They were also investigated by parliament and decisions were given. So there is nothing new. No one has the right to tire Turkey with these smears and lies. Our stance in this regard is very clear and we will continue to maintain our stance on the side of the people,” he said.