US prosecutor asks Zarrab hearing to be postponed
NEW YORK – Doğan News Agency
AFP photoU.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has requested a postponement in the legal proceedings against Reza Zarrab, an Iranian-born Turkish businessman who was arrested in Miami in March for attempting to evade U.S. sanctions on Iran, due to his heavy work schedule.
Bharara said Zarrab’s lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, complied with the request to reschedule the hearing, which was originally set to be held June 16, on June 20 in New York.
Zarrab, 32, was the prime suspect in a corruption and bribery scandal involving the Turkish government that went public on Dec. 17, 2013.
The businessman was accused of being the ringleader of a money laundering and gold smuggling ring in Turkey that circumvented sanctions against Iran. The charges were dismissed after the prosecutors investigating case were accused by the ruling party and then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of plotting against the government and removed from their posts.
Four former cabinet members, EU Minister Egemen Bağış, Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan, Interior Minister Muammer Güler and Urban Planning Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar, were accused in the probe before they were acquitted.
Bharara included the Turkish graft probe claims in the indictment against Zarrab, which was opposed by Brafman.
The fact that the probe was closed down is in fact further evidence of Zarrab’s relationship with influential Turkish officials, Bharara said, adding that he was a flight risk and may never appear in front of a U.S. court if he was released on bail due to his substantial family and business contacts abroad.
Brafman urged a U.S. judge to release his client from jail on a $50 million bond and to place him under house arrest in a 15th-floor apartment under 24-hour watch by armed guards, paid for at Zarrab’s personal cost.
Bharara said Zarrab had passports from three countries, enabling him to easily travel to countries from which he could not be extradited, with Judge Richard Berman saying the court wanted to receive the passports currently held by Brafman.
Other than his Turkish passport, Zarrab also holds Iranian and Macedonian passports.