Zarrab’s trade activities suspicious, says Turkey’s official corruption probe report
Arda Akın - ANKARAA Customs Ministry report has shown that the import and export activities of several companies belonging to controversial Iranian-Turkish businessman Reza Zarrab were suspicious and should be investigated for possible money laundering, tax evasion and foreign trade manipulations.
The report, which was prepared upon an order from then-Customs Minister Hayati Yazıcı after the huge corruption probe that went public on Dec. 17 2013, mentioned “highly suspicious” customs transactions in Zarrab’s companies, which should be investigated by the Economy Ministry, the Finance Ministry, the Financial Crimes Investigative Board (MASAK), and the Undersecretariat for the Treasury.
In particular, there is considerable suspicion about more than 100 tons of transit bullion trade made by Zarrab’s companies over the course of two years with five companies, two in Dubai and three in China.
Even though the report, which has been seen by daily Hürriyet, was finalized back in Aug. 8, 2014 and presented to ministry officials, no official steps have been taken about the claims for approximately 11 months.
Zarrab’s company Volgam Gıda, which was recently awarded for its jewelry exports in 2014, was determined in the company’s records to have sold a total of 384 million Turkish Liras of commodity and service to a foreign company named Tosea Tejarat in 2013. This is seen as suspicious because Volgam Gıda is not registered as having conducted any imports, exports or transit transactions in the same year with the same company, according to the report.
Charges against Zarrab, who was accused of paying bribes to senior government figures in a scheme that allegedly involved Barış Güler, the son of former Interior Minister Muammer Güler, and Salih Kaan Çağlayan, the son of former Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan, in Turkey’s biggest ever graft probe, were dropped by prosecutors on Oct. 17, 2014 on the grounds that there was a lack of grounds for legal action against the suspects.
Another point in the Customs Ministry report is that Turkish-origin gold was imported back to the country after being exported in the first place from Turkey via Zarrab’s companies. This process reportedly occurred 89 times through various companies belonging to Zarrab by submitting false declarations about the bullions’ codes.
“Importing a Turkish-origin commodity means importing a product that was previously exported. The false reporting of the commodities’ codes leads to the formation and interpretation of incorrect foreign trade statistics,” reads a part of the report.
It also revealed that Zarrab made both money and gold transfers to Babek Zencani, another Iranian businessman currently imprisoned in Iran on corruption charges.
“The inspections have indicated that Zencani and Zarrab, as well as their companies, have trade relations,” states the report.
A number of foreign trade transactions and money transfers of Zarrab’s 43 companies to and from Turkey, Iran, China, the United Arab Emirates and Russia between 2011 and 2013 are also examined in the report, which was prepared under the signature of the ministry’s chief inspector and accepted by the ministry’s guidance and inspection chief.