US judge asks if Turkish-Iranian gold trader’s lawyers were hired by Iran, US, Turkey
NEW YORK - Reuters
REUTERS photoA U.S. judge on May 1 said he wanted to know whether Iran employs any lawyers for a wealthy Turkish-Iranian gold trader accused of helping that country evade U.S. sanctions, a team that includes former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
In a brief order, U.S. District Judge Richard Berman in Manhattan said he planned to ask at a hearing on May 2 whether Giuliani or any other lawyer for trader Reza Zarrab had been hired by Iran, the United States or Turkey.
The hearing will focus on whether conflicts of interest bar Giuliani and former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey from representing Zarrab. The trader has pleaded not guilty to U.S. charges that he conspired to conduct illegal transactions through U.S. banks on behalf of Iran’s government, violating U.S. sanctions.
He hired Giuliani and Mukasey, to try to negotiate a diplomatic resolution of his case between the U.S. and Turkey.
Both attorneys have discussed Zarrab’s case with U.S. authorities and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has accused U.S. authorities of having “ulterior motives” in bringing the charges. In an affidavit filed last month, Giuliani, an adviser to U.S. President Donald Trump, said authorities in both countries were “receptive” to a diplomatic deal.
Prosecutors have said they are concerned about conflicts because eight of the U.S. banks involved in the case have been clients of Giuliani or Mukasey’s law firms, and because Giuliani’s firm, Greenberg Traurig, is a registered agent of Turkey.
Giuliani and Mukasey said in affidavits filed on April 20 that they did not believe they had any conflicts in representing Zarrab.
Greenberg Traurig was hired in 2014 as a subcontractor for the Gephardt Group, which provides lobbying services to Turkey, according to foreign agent registration records submitted to the court. Members of the firm have discussed U.S.-Turkish relations with U.S. lawmakers and their staff, the records show.
Zarrab is widely known in Turkey, as his name was embroiled into the Dec. 17-25, 2013, graft operations that involved four former ministers and other state officials.
During the graft probes, four high-ranking former ministers, Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan, Interior Minister Muammer Güler, EU Minister Egemen Bağış and Urban Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar, and several businessmen were accused of involvement in a large-scale probe but were later acquitted both in court and parliament.