Zarrab indictment expanded to include Turkey as ‘crime scene’
Razi Canikligil – NEW YORKAn indictment for Reza Zarrab, an Iranian-born Turkish businessman who was arrested in Miami a month ago over attempting to evade U.S. sanctions on Iran, has expanded from New York to include “Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and elsewhere” as places where the crime may have been committed.
U.S Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara, who has garnered fame in Turkey after launching the investigation into Zarrab – one of the central figures in the huge 2013 corruption probe – made changes to the 21-page indictment and widened the scope of the investigation.
While the indictment dated March 21 said the charges included offences “from at least in or about 2010, up to and including in or about 2014” and “committed outside of the jurisdiction of any particular State or district of the United States,” the updated version said it was concerned with crimes committed in Turkey, the UAE, and possibly elsewhere, in addition to New York. The changes were made to clauses 13, 15, 19 and 22 of the indictment.
The Attorney’s Office accused Zarrab of conspiring to evade U.S. sanctions against Iran, allegedly by “engaging hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of transactions on behalf of the Government of Iran and other Iranian entities,” along with two other suspects, Camelia Jamshidy and Hossein Nafajzadeh, both Iranian citizens who remain at large. Zarrab was also charged with money laundering and bank fraud, also outside of U.S. jurisdiction.
The indictment cited Bank Mellat, the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), the Naftiran Intertrade Company Ltd. (NICO), the Naftiran Intertrade Company Sarl (“NICO Sarl”) and the Hong Kong Intertrade Company (HKICO), along with the contractor MAPNA Group, as companies that benefited from the fraud.
Royal Holding A.Ş., the Durak Döviz Exchange, the Al Nafees Exchange, Royal Emerald Investments, Asi Kıymetli MadenlerTurizm, ECB Kuyumculuk and Güneş General Trading LLC were listed as Turkish companies linked to Zarrab.
A lawyer registered at the District Court of Southern District of New York, Cahit Akbulut, said the amendment “clearly points to Turkey as a country where these crimes were committed,” adding this could be a move to correct a shortage of the earlier indictment.
“Putting Turkey’s name among countries where the crimes were committed shows that information and documentation could be requested from Turkey’s Ministry of Justice,” Akbulut added.
Meanwhile, Zarrab is currently traveling from Miami to New York via a bus, in a transfer that is expected to continue for more than two weeks. His trial is set to start in September at the earliest, and Zarrab will appear in court as soon as he arrives in New York, where his lawyers are likely to demand a free trial with bail, according to the Southern District of New York’s Chief Public Information Officer James Margolin.
Zarrab is currently staying at Atlanta Prison, where he had been waiting for a bus for the past five days.
Still a controversial figure in Turkey, Zarrab was accused of being the ringleader of a money laundering and gold smuggling ring in Turkey that circumnavigated 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, Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan, Interior Minister Muahmmer Güler, European Union Minister Egemen Bağış and Urban Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar, were accused in the probe before they were acquitted.