Reza Zarrab and lawyer fail to appear at New York hearing
ANKARA - Agence France-Presse
Jury selection in the case is scheduled to begin on Nov. 20 and opening statements will be made on Nov. 27.
In his absence, there are mounting press reports in the United States that Zarrab, 34, may now be cooperating with U.S. authorities in search of a plea bargain deal.
Ankara has learned that Zarrab is in a good condition, after the United States responded to a second official question by the Turkish authorities, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Nov. 16.
“[The U.S.] has responded in a general way and said ‘he is in another [prison]. His health condition is good and he is safe. There are no problems.’ That is the situation,” Çavuşoğlu said.
“Upon seeing news reports that Zarrab had disappeared or his lawyers could not reach him, we asked [about his whereabouts] to U.S. officials. Since there was no answer, our colleagues asked once again to the U.S. Justice Department. They received the answer that he is in a good condition in terms of both health and security,” he added.
Çavuşoğlu’s remarks followed statements from Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ on Nov. 16, in which he said Zarrab was in a good health condition.
Speculation was rife in the Turkish media after the U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons website showed Zarrab being released from prison on Nov. 8.
His lawyer Ben Brafman, one of the most prominent defense attorneys in the United States, declined to comment on Zarrab’s current situation.
Previously, Zarrab’s name surfaced last week in U.S. media reports about U.S. President Donald Trump’s former national security advisor Michael Flynn.
Flynn, already a key person of interest in an investigation into Russian meddling in the U.S. election, is also reportedly being investigated for alleged talks with Turkey on deporting Zarrab in exchange for money.
Special prosecutor Robert Mueller is examining a meeting between Flynn and senior Turkish officials that took place weeks after Trump won the presidential election, NBC News and the Wall Street Journal reported.
Turkey and Flynn’s lawyers have denied any such negotiations.
Zarrab, a gold trader in Turkey with dual Turkish-Iranian citizenship, was arrested in March after he arrived in Florida for a family vacation.
Prosecutors charged him with conspiring to violate U.S. sanctions and help Iranian entities conduct hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of financial transactions through U.S. banks.