Friday 19 January 2018

Erdogan 'part of Iran money laundering plot', court told

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Brendan Pierson

A Turkish-Iranian gold trader yesterday told jurors in a New York federal court that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan personally authorised a transaction in a scheme to help Iran evade US sanctions.

Reza Zarrab is co-operating with US prosecutors in the criminal trial of a Turkish bank executive accused of helping to launder money for Iran.

At the time of the alleged conspiracy, Mr Erdogan was Turkey's prime minister.

Mr Zarrab said that he learned of Mr Erdogan's involvement from Zafer Caglayan, who was Turkey's economy minister.

Mr Erdogan said earlier yesterday that Turkey did not violate US sanctions and "did the right thing" in dealing with Iran, CNN Turk reported.

A spokesman for Mr Erdogan's government has said that the case is a "plot against Turkey".

Mr Zarrab also said for the first time yesterday that Turkey's Ziraat Bank and VakifBank were involved in the scheme.

Ziraat denied the allegation. VakifBank could not immediately be reached for comment yesterday.

The testimony came on the third day of the trial of Mehmet Hakan Atilla, an executive at Turkey's state-owned Halkbank, who has pleaded not guilty in the Manhattan federal court.

US prosecutors have charged nine people in the case, although only Mr Zarrab (34), and Mr Atilla (47), have been arrested by US authorities.

Prosecutors have said that the defendants took part in a scheme from 2010 to 2015 that involved gold trades and fake purchases of food, in order to give Iran access to international markets.

Meanwhile, the European Union is set to cut up to €175m for Turkey in 2018 that are linked to Ankara's stalled bid to join the bloc, and could block some €3.5bn in development loans earmarked for the country, lawmakers and diplomats said.

In a symbolic stand against deteriorating human rights in Turkey, the 2018 cuts are likely to be the start of a longer-term reduction of pre-accession aid that is meant to help EU candidate countries prepare for membership.

"As long as Turkey is not respecting freedom of speech, human rights, and is drifting further away from European democratic standards, we cannot finance such a regime with EU funds," said Siegfried Muresan, the European Parliament's chief budget negotiator.

Irish Independent

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