Zarrab’s offices in Istanbul abandoned ‘ghost’ buildings after seizure order
Fırat Alkaç – ISTANBUL
The Istanbul offices of Turkish-Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab , a key witness in the trial of a Turkish bank executive in the United States over violations of Iran sanctions, have turned into abandoned “ghost” buildings.
Zarrab’s seven-story high building in the Beyoğlu district’s Fındıklı neighborhood with the name “Royal Holding” currently accommodates only two security personnel.
“The building was emptied after Zarrab was arrested in the United States,” one of the staff, Ahmet İlgin, told daily Hürriyet.
“Approximately 20 people were working [in the building], they were dismissed from employment. Afterwards, the computers were taken away. No one has come or gone in months. Our salaries are deposited into our bank accounts. No one calls to ask [about the buildings],” İlgin said.
Royal Holding was established by Zarrab on Dec. 27, 2010. Although the company’s name was changed to “Roysar” in 2016, the building still carries the signboard “Royal Holding.”
Zarrab’s name was embroiled into the Dec. 17-25, 2013 graft operations that involved four former Turkish ministers and other state officials. Zarrab was accused of paying bribes to senior government figures, but eventually the charges were dropped on the grounds that the probe was masterminded by Gülenists, leading to Zarrab’s release from jail.
Afterwards, Zarrab moved his companies including Royal Holding, Royal Marine, ARE Aviation and Safir Altın (gold in English) to the seven-floor building in Fındıklı on Meclis-i Mebusan Avenue in 2014.
Another office belonging to Zarrab, an exchange bureau just beside the famous Grand Bazaar in the district of Fatih, has also been closed. The “Durak Foreign Exchange” bureau at the Rococo Center office tower has been turned into a jewelry shop.
“Zarrab did not come here after the Dec. 17 operation. His men closed down the business. Afterwards it [the office] changed hands. The new tenants are handling jewelry and foreign exchange-related businesses,” a staff of the office tower’s security told daily Hürriyet.
Meanwhile, the Istanbul prosecutor’s office has ordered assets belonging to Zarrab and his acquaintances to be seized, state-run Anadolu Agency said on Dec. 1.
One of the reasons for the seizure was that “the procurement of information should stay secret for the security, internal and foreign political interests of the Turkish Republic and from the political and military spying purposes of foreign countries.”
The Istanbul prosecutor’s office also said the mentioned names were likely to smuggle their assets abroad, as there was information that suggested this as a reason for the seizure.
Among the people whose assets are to be seized are a total of 23 people, including Zarrab himself and his child Alara Zarrab with his singer wife, Ebru Gündeş.
Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said on Dec. 1 he hoped Zarrab would “turn back from his mistake” in cooperating with U.S. prosecutors, reiterating Ankara’s view that the criminal trial in New York was aimed at putting pressure on Turkey and its economy.
Since Zarrab became the prosecution’s star witness in the trial, deputy general manager of Halkbank Mehmet Hakan Atilla is now the lone man on the dock accused of violating sanctions, bribery and money laundering.
Zarrab has taken the stand three times since Nov. 29, admitting to bribing former Turkish Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan and being involved in the multi-billion-dollar gold-for-oil scheme.