Turkish justice minister asks US Attorney General to release Zarrab
ISTANBULA top Turkish government official recently met with Attorney General Loretta Lynch and told her the prosecution of Turkish-Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab was “based on no evidence,” according to a court filing unsealed on Nov. 15.
The filing from federal prosecutors in Manhattan said Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ also asked that Zarrab be released from U.S. custody and returned to Turkey. The meeting happened approximately two weeks ago, according to the filing.
Zarrab, a gold trader in Turkey with dual Turkish-Iranian citizenship, was arrested in March when 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.
Local prosecutors in 2013 charged him with bribing Turkish ministers with ties to then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, charges which were later dropped following a switch in the prosecutorial team.
In the filing of Nov. 15, U.S. prosecutors said the Turkish government had made recent attempts to intervene in the prosecution against Zarrab, led by the office of Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. Erdoğan, now the Turkish president, has told the local press that Zarrab’s case was politically motivated and accused the U.S. of having “ulterior motives,” the filing said.
The disclosure came after Zarrab’s lawyers sought the judge’s permission to give Bozdağ a copy of a 2014 search warrant application that allowed the U.S. government to search Zarrab’s emails. His lawyers claimed the warrant application was based on a “widely discredited” document that purported to be a Turkish law enforcement report, whose authenticity could be verified or denied by Bozdağ.
The judge denied the motion on Nov. 15, Wall Street Journal reported.
Zarrab’s lawyers have suggested in previous court filings that Bharara’s prosecutors only pursued the investigation because they were unhappy that charges were dropped against Zarrab in the Turkish bribery case.
Zarrab has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to face trial in January.
Bozdağ’s meeting with Lynch appears to have occurred during his trip to Washington late last month, where he presented fresh evidence to U.S. authorities on Turkey’s claim that Pennsylvania-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen was behind the failed coup.
Turkey seeks Gülen’s extradition and has already put Gülen on trial in absentia for efforts to topple the government.