Gold trader says he never liked Turkish banker facing trial (HALKB)


Prosecutors entered this photo of Turkish gold trader Reza Zarrab as evidence in a trial of a Turkish banker accused of laundering money for Iran in contravention of US sanctions.

Corroborating criticisms that justice was not served by the probe's closure, Zarrab said that he helped pay his way out of a Turkish prison.

Zarrab last month accepted all the USA charges against him, including the violation of now-lifted US sanctions against Iran, money laundering and other charges and agreed to cooperate as a witness against Mehmet Hakan Atilla, the former deputy CEO of Turkey's state-run lender Halkbank. Only Zarrab, 34, and Atilla, 47, have been arrested by US authorities.

The accusations have surfaced as Zarrab testifies before a federal court in Manhattan on his role in a lucrative regional trade circuit, that saw Iran inject billions of euros of hydrocarbon revenues into the worldwide banking sector via Turkey's public banking institution - circumventing USA sanctions prohibiting trade with Teheran.

Media reported on Dec 6 that Turkish police has detained at least 17 people including Zarrab's three employees who allegedly sent documents to the U.S. for the businessman's case in NY.

Overshadowed by this geopolitical intrigue, Zarrab has been called as the US government's star witness - not against any president or politician, but against a banker: Mehmet Hakan Atilla, a former manager at the state-run Halkbank. On Thursday CNN Turk said Erdogan had said Turkey did not violate US sanctions. "I came face-to-face with an individual who tried to take my life", Zarrab said, speaking faster and louder than before.

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Jaber's suit says Zarrab, a wealthy gold trader, first befriended him in Manhattan's Metropolitan Correctional Center based on their shared Shia Muslim faith.

Afterward, Zarrab was removed from prison and has remained since in the custody of Federal Bureau of Investigation agents, though he has not said where. According to a transcript of sidebar conversations between the judge and lawyers, Atilla's defense lawyers considered confronting Zarrab on the witness stand with the accusations but decided against it. His testimony likely will win him leniency at sentencing. Zarrab also sent money to Jaber's family in Africa and put cash in his commissary account, it added.

Once they were cellmates, Zarrab "started telling Plaintiff that he likes having sex with both men and women", Jaber's suit reads.

Jaber, a cancer survivor with a heart condition, "felt helpless and unable to fight off the younger and stronger defendant", suit says.

According to the plea agreement, Zarrab also paid bribes to foreign officials and corporate representatives between 2002 and March 2016 in return for personal benefits, favorable business dealings and the protection of government officials.

Ben Brafman, an attorney for Zarrab, said his client "categorically denies the allegation and intends to vigorously defend against the lawsuit".