Three Zarrab aides arrested in Turkey

Three Zarrab aides arrested in Turkey

ISTANBUL/NEW YORK
Three Zarrab aides arrested in Turkey

Three of aides of Turkish-Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab were arrested in Istanbul on Dec. 15 on charges of “espionage,” accused of trying to send documents to a New York court handling the case into a former Turkish banker accused of taking part in a scheme to help Iran evade U.S. sanctions.

Sinem Arslan, Regaip Akol and Mustafa Hacısalihoğlu, who are also known as “black boxes” of Zarrab, were arrested as part of an investigation carried out by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office.

The three were among the 17 people detained previously as part of the investigation into Zarrab’s activities.

Zarrab’s name was involved in Turkey’s Dec. 17-25, 2013 corruption probes, 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.

Zarrab was arrested in the U.S. last year over evading sanctions on Iran, but after he became the prosecution’s top witness in the trial, former Halkbank deputy general manager Mehmet Hakan Atilla is now the sole man in the dock accused of violating Iran sanctions, bribery and money laundering.

The Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on Dec. 1 ordered the seizure of assets belonging to Zarrab and his acquaintances.

One of the reasons for the seizure was that “the procurement of information should stay secret for the security, internal and foreign political interests of the Republic of Turkey, and to protect the country from the political and military espionage practices of foreign countries.”

The prosecutor’s office then expanded its investigation and initially detained Arslan, Akol and Hacısalihoğlu.

The three are accused of trying to send documents to the court in the U.S., in addition to “partially or completely destroying, damaging or stealing documents and records regarding the state’s security or its domestic and foreign political benefits, as well as using them outside their purpose and committing forgery over them.”

The remaining 14 suspects were released on condition of judicial control.

Meanwhile, Atilla plans to testify in his own defense at his trial in New York, his lawyers said on Dec. 14.

A lawyer for Atilla told U.S. District Judge Richard Berman in Manhattan federal court that Atilla would testify. The announcement came shortly after prosecutors said they had finished presenting their case.

The prosecutors’ last witness was Hüseyin Korkmaz, a fugitive former police officer sought in Turkey over membership of the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ).

Mehmet Hakan Atilla, banker, Halkbank, Zarrab