Zarrab’s plan to move to Dubai if released in US revealed in hand-written note
Toygun Atilla – ISTANBUL
Turkish-Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab planned to move to Dubai if he is released in the U.S., according to a hand-written note seized from one of his aides.
Zarrab, who is a key witness in the ongoing trial of a Turkish bank executive in the U.S. over violations of U.S. sanctions on Iran, wrote the note to Sinem Arslan from jail, requesting that she speak to his lawyers about obtaining a residence permit from Dubai if and when he is released from jail after cooperating with U.S. prosecutors.
“Sinem, I couldn’t write it openly from mail here. Talk to lawyer Abdurrahman al-Sharif in Dubai and [learn] if I can obtain a residence permit from Dubai for me to live there in the future,” Zarrab wrote on the note he sent to Arslan over WhatsApp via his lawyers.
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 but as 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 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 detained three people employed by Zarrab: Arslan, Regaip Akol and Mustafa 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.”
Police seized several notes written by Zarrab himself or his lawyers that were sent to the aforementioned associates to convey his requests. In the note sent to Arslan, Zarrab asked her to conduct a face-to-face meeting with the lawyer in Dubai.
“Ask the lawyer: ‘Can he settle in Dubai after he finishes his sentence if he cooperates with the prosecutors in the U.S.? Can he arrange the residence permit if there is direct deportation to Dubai from the U.S.?’ Ask to meet with the lawyer to discuss these issues and go talk to him face-to-face,” Zarrab wrote in the note.
Another note confiscated from Arslan’s house contains warnings, though the prosecutor’s office is still unable to determine the name of the recipient.
“You and your families are liable to be implicated in the legal proceedings. It would be beneficial for you to change your current location and country. Problems could occur if you return to Dubai. You would be wise to rent a weekly house rather than book a hotel room. It could be rented under a different name. Be careful not to provide any registration details or leave behind any traceable digital conversations,” said the note, which was not hand-written, and referred to a hearing in the U.S. dated April 4.
“Be especially careful about the messages I wrote after April 4,” it also said.
A further note seized from the house starts with “Wrong choices [made] under claustrophobia” and ends with “The government may not protect.”
Speaking about the note, Arslan said she wrote and sent it to the U.S., adding that it featured remarks on the trial by fortune tellers, with whom she claimed to have met upon Zarrab’s request.