US prosecutor says Zarrab a flight risk ahead of bail hearing
REUTERS photoU.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has insisted on including the Turkish graft probe claims in the indictment against Reza Zarrab, an Iranian-born Turkish businessman who was arrested in Miami in March for attempting evade U.S. sanctions on Iran, ahead of a bail hearing which was set to be held late on June 2, suggesting the information stands as proof of Zarrab’s flight risk.
Bharara submitted a new document to court on June 1, after Zarrab’s lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, submitted a 55-page additional petition to the court on May 31, saying the Dec. 17, 2013, graft probe claims should not be involved in the case. The summary of proceedings of the investigation which targeted Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government’s senior members were included in Bharara’s earlier submission to support his argument that Zarrab should not receive bail.
The U.S. attorney said the prosecutor in the case of Turkey’s graft probe was appointed after a number of police officers and public prosecutors were removed from their posts, hence does not require compliance from U.S. prosecutors.
The fact that the probe was closed down is in fact further evidence of Zarrab’s relationship with influential Turkish officials, Bharara added.
In the latest document, Bharara argued Zarrab was a flight risk and may never appear in front of a U.S. court if he was released on bail due to his substantial family and business contacts abroad. He previously asserted that Zarrab had passports from three countries, enabling him to easily travel to countries from which he could not be extradited.
The U.S. attorney also responded to Brafman’s claims that Zarrab was not provided with a translator despite demanding one, dismissing the allegations as untrue.
According to Bharara, a translator was provided for Zarrab, even though the detainee was able to speak English fluently. He added that Zarrab was also fluent in Persian, despite his claims to the contrary, as evident in thousands of correspondence items in Persian retrieved from his email accounts.
Zarrab was the prime suspect in a corruption and bribery scandal involving the Turkish government that went public on Dec. 17, 2013.
The businessman was accused of being the ringleader of a money laundering and gold smuggling ring in Turkey that circumvented sanctions against Iran. The charges were dismissed after the prosecutors investigating case were accused by the ruling party and then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of plotting against the government and removed from their posts.
Four former cabinet members, Bağış, Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan, Interior Minister Muahmmer Güler and Urban Planning Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar, were accused in the probe before they were acquitted.
Zarrab’s bail hearing was set to be held on 10 a.m. local time on June 2.