US indictment against former minister in Iran embargo probe political, step against Turkey: Erdoğan
ISTANBULTurkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has claimed there are “malicious intentions” behind a new indictment filed by a U.S. prosecutor against former Turkish Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan and three others accused of conspiring to violate U.S. sanctions against Iran.
“I deem this step taken against our former Economy Minister as a step taken against the state of the Turkish Republic,” Erdoğan told reporters before leaving Istanbul for Kazakhstan on Sept. 8.
“It seems suspicious. The [case about] Reza Zarrab is like that, the issue about the deputy general of our Halkbank, Mr. Hakan [Aslan], is like that. All the other names are like that,” he added.
His comments came after U.S. prosecutors broadened an investigation into Turkish-Iranian millionaire Reza Zarrab, filing a new indictment charging Çağlayan, former Halkbank general manager Hakan Aslan and other two with “conspiring to use the U.S. financial system to conduct hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of transactions on behalf of the Government of Iran and other Iranian entities, which were barred by United States sanctions.”
They are also accused of lying to U.S. government officials about the transactions, laundering funds and defrauding several financial institutions by concealing the true nature of the transactions.
Zarrab has been the main suspect in the case, accused of allegedly using a network of companies to launder money for Iran.
When asked about the case, Erdoğan said the decision “was totally political,” adding that Turkey has not implemented such sanctions against Iran and the two countries have been maintaining “delicate bilateral relations.”
“They say that he has violated U.S. sanctions against Iran. As Turkey, we haven’t taken any decisions to implement sanctions against Iran. We have relations with Iran; we have delicate relations. We purchase some of our natural gas and petrol from Iran. We have told them [the U.S.] that before. I have told Mr. [former U.S. President Barack] Obama that we will not implement such sanctions,” Erdoğan said.
“He [Çağlayan] was our Economy Minister, and stemming from his position he was entitled to implement government regulations. For that reason, these steps are totally political,” he said.
“The U.S. needs to revise this decision. I hope we’ll get a chance to discuss this issue in the U.S.,” he added.
Erdoğan also criticized the U.S. judiciary for filing an indictment against his security guards who were involved in a brawl in Washington during a visit in May.
“It shows the weakness that the U.S. authorities are experiencing,” he said.
“You can be a big state. But being a rightful state is something else. The problem lies in here. That’s why being a rightful state depends on operating the judicial system in a lawful manner. If your judicial system does not operate in a lawful manner, these types of events will always bring those suspicious smells,” he added.
U.S. prosecutors on Aug. 29 indicted 15 of Erdoğan’s security officials for attacking protestors in Washington during Erdoğan’s visit.
Saying that he will visit the U.S. to attend the U.N. General Assembly later this month, Erdoğan noted that he would discuss the issues with Washington if a meeting between him and President Donald Trump happens.