Turkish bodies cannot be linked to Zarrab probe in US: Trade minister
ISTANBUL - ReutersThe arrest of Reza Zarrab cannot be linked to the Turkish state’s Halkbank, Trade Minister Bülent Tüfenkçi said on March 22, adding that U.S. investigators had not demanded any information or documents regarding the issue.
Speaking upon a question over the “illegal gold” probe and the possible embroilment of Halkbank, Tüfenkçi claimed that any link of the arrest to the bank would be “ill-intentioned and political.”
“They tried to do the same thing during the Dec. 17-25, 2013 period. Today, attempting to involve a state bank in this probe would be regarded as completely ill-intentioned,” he said.
Shares in Halkbank fell 5 percent on March 22 following the arrest in the United States of Zarrab on charges of conspiring to evade U.S. sanctions on Iran, traders said.
At 0820 GMT, Halkbank shares were down 5 percent at 10.92 lira.
Nobody from Halkbank was immediately available to comment on Zarrab’s arrest.
“As part of the probe that led to the arrest of Zarrab, no information or issue was demanded from the Trade Ministry ... If you look at this probe, the reason [for the arrest] is the breach of the embargo and U.S. laws.
We do not know further details of the probe,” Tüfenkçi said, adding that his ministry could be charged as Turkey did not recognize the Iranian embargo.
The Iranian-born businessman, Reza Zarrab, was charged in an indictment filed in a federal court in Manhattan, U.S. prosecutors said on March 21.
Under a Turkish investigation which emerged in 2013, Zarrab was accused, along with the then-general manager of Halkbank and other Turkish officials, of involvement in facilitating Iranian money transfers via gold smuggling, leaked documents at the time showed. The Turkish case was later dropped after a series of reassignments in the judiciary prompted by the government.