Zarrab holds most of Zanjani’s money, Iran says

Zarrab holds most of Zanjani’s money, Iran says

İpek Yezdani – ISTANBUL
Zarrab holds most of Zanjani’s money, Iran says

DHA photo

Reza Zarrab, an Iranian-born Turkish businessman who was arrested in Miami on March 21, holds the vast majority of Iran’s jailed billionaire tycoon Babak Zanjani’s fortune, according to documents held by Iran, Iranian MP Amir Abbas Soltani has stated.

Speaking in parliament, Soltani, who is a member of the corruption committee formed in Iranian parliament to examine the case of Zanjani, said “Tehran should seize every possible opportunity to bring Zarrab to Iran.”

Zanjani was last month sentenced to death in Iran for corruption after a trial in which he was accused of fraudulently pocketing $2.8 billion.

Zarrab was Zanjani’s collaborator and partner, said Soltani, marking the first time the business ties between Zarrab and Zanjani were mentioned in Iranian parliament.

“Babak Zanjani and Reza Zarrab were never apart from each other. Zarrab is the key figure in Zanjani’s case. For this reason, in order for the Zanjani case to be solved we need to have Zarrab,” said Soltani, adding that the money and property Zarrab allegedly has is “money that the Iranian state needs to retrieve.”

“Some of the interest centers behind closed curtains did the best they can in order to prevent us from reaching Zarrab. This situation made this case very complicated. It is estimated that Zanjani has wealth of over $5 billion. A very small amount of that is in Iran and a very significant amount of it is abroad,” he said.

Soltani alleged that Zanjani has other partners who are unknown to the authorities and a large amount of money is with them.

Zarrab was a key figure in a large 2013 graft probe in Turkey that also involved four cabinet ministers but the case was dropped and Zarrab was released after 70 days in jail. 

He was arrested in Miami last month on charges of breaking the U.S. embargo on Iran and money laundering. 

U.S. Judge Edwin Torres accepted last week a petition by Zarrab’s lawyer Lee Stapleton, who withdrew from a bail hearing and the court ruled on canceling the April 4 session. Zarrab will now be sent to New York but no exact date for his first hearing has been marked.

“Reza Zarrab declines to seek bail in Florida court, to be transported to New York for further proceedings,” said New York prosecutor Preet Bharara, who presented the indictment about Zarrab, in a tweet.

Zarrab was charged in an indictment filed in federal court in Manhattan along with one of his employees, Kamelia Jamshidy, and Hossein Najafzadeh, a senior officer at a unit of Bank Mellat in Iran.

He appeared in federal court there on March 21, where a federal magistrate judge ordered him arrested. Both Jamshidy and Najafzadeh, who are both Iranian nationals, remained at large.

The Iranian government said on March 9 that the death sentence decision for Zanjani can change if he repays his debt of around $2.8 billion in cash to the state.

“If we see the money back in our bank account, we will say that he has cooperated. So far, we haven’t seen this,” said Iranian Justice Minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi, as quoted by Iranian media outlets.

Zanjani became notorious during the era of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for finding ways to channel hard currency to Tehran despite financial sanctions imposed on Iran.