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Reza Zarrab Reveals a Plot to Kill Him, and Is Accused of Rape

December 8, 2017

“Do you still have any of those things?” a prosecutor, Sidhardha Kamaraju, asked him.

“No, sir,” Mr. Zarrab replied.

He said that while he was testifying in New York, his assets had been seized by the Turkish government. Mr. Zarrab made it clear that he believed the Turkish action had been in retaliation for his cooperating with United States prosecutors.

But a defense lawyer, Cathy Fleming, tried to put a different spin on Mr. Zarrab’s testimony during cross-examination. Ms. Fleming pointed out that under his plea bargain to become a cooperating witness, he had already agreed to forfeit all the proceeds of his crimes.

“Correct?” she said.

“Yes, ma’am,” Mr. Zarrab replied.

Lashing Out in Turkey

The trial has riveted Turkey, and its president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has charged that the case is a fabrication.

Perhaps because the case could stir up political trouble for Mr. Erdogan and his former ministers, the president lashed out on Tuesday in a heated attack against the United States in a meeting in Ankara with legislators from his ruling party.

For 30 minutes he criticized not just the trial but also American support for Kurdish insurgents in Syria and the United States’ policy in Israel.

“It is an international coup attempt,” Mr. Erdogan said. “We won’t watch our hands being tied by those who attempt to crucify us in America with the claim that we violated the sanctions.”


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At a social event last Sunday in the coastal city of Izmir, Turkey, a former prime minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, who was foreign minister at the time of Mr. Zarrab’s gold-for-oil trade scheme with Iran, defended Turkey’s decision to disregard American sanctions against Iran.

“We did not abide by the U.S.A.’s one-sided embargo, and we will not,” he said. “We said it then, we say it now, and we will say it until Judgment Day.”

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“Iran is our neighbor,” he continued. “It is a part of our honor to defend our sovereignty and independence.”

Mr. Zarrab’s revelations, and the sheer scale of the bribery, have given ammunition to Mr. Erdogan’s political opponents. Mr. Zarrab testified that he had paid tens of millions of dollars in bribes to Zafer Caglayan, who was the country’s economy minister at the time of the scheme.

A prominent opposition leader, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who heads the Republican People’s Party, unveiled a leaked report by the Turkish intelligence service on a 2013 investigation that warned that the scandal could hurt the government and relations with the United States.

“All the skulduggery was explained,” Mr. Kilicdaroglu told a women’s gathering in Ankara. “Zarrab transfers money,” he read from the document, “it may cause a problem in Turkey-U.S. relations.”

If Mr. Zarrab’s ties to Mr. Caglayan are revealed, he continued, “it may become a liability for the government.”

“I am telling this to Erdogan,” Mr. Kilicdaroglu railed. “The fraud, the bribes to your ministers was put in front of you. What did you do? You closed the file. You turned a blind eye to the scam.”

A Sexual Assault Lawsuit

Perhaps the most unusual development this past week involving Mr. Zarrab occurred when he was sued by an inmate in a federal jail in Manhattan who accused him of rape.

The inmate says in the lawsuit that Mr. Zarrab had sexually abused him over several months in late 2016 and early 2017, while they were cellmates.

Robert J. Anello, a lawyer for Mr. Zarrab, called the lawsuit’s allegations “outrageous and false.”

The suit was filed late on Wednesday and reported online by The New York Times on Thursday. It raised the question about whether lawyers for the Turkish banker on trial, Mehmet Hakan Atilla, would seek to cross-examine Mr. Zarrab about the rape accusation in an attempt to undermine his credibility.

A court transcript shows the lawyers, prosecutors and judge had sidebar discussions out of the jury’s earshot after the article was published.

A prosecutor said the lawsuit was “nothing but allegations.”

Judge Richard M. Berman said he had not read the Times article. “I don’t know what it’s about,” he said. “It sounds to me like Page Six stuff.”

Ultimately, the defense did not raise the lawsuit before the jury.

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