Erdogan Helped Turks Evade Iran Sanctions, Reza Zarrab Says

Turkish gold trader testifies against man he allegedly worked with on plan to divert millions to Iran

A senior Turkish government minister on Thursday branded the NY trial of a Turkish bank executive on charges of violation of sanctions against Iran as a new attempt by US -based cleric Fethullah Gulen to harm Turkey's government.

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.

Zarrab also testified that he used DenizBank for some transactions, allegations which the lender disputed.

The case has fueled tensions between the United States and Turkey, which are North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies.

Zarrab said Aslan ordered Atilla to allow the transaction.

Prosecutors had kept secret that Zarrab was co-operating in a bid for leniency.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Sidhardha Kamaraju elicited details of what the United States has said was a well-orchestrated conspiracy to evade U.S. sanctions against Iran and enable $1 billion in Iranian oil proceeds to move through global banking markets.

USA prosecutors have charged nine people in the case with conspiring to help Iran evade sanctions, although only Zarrab, 34, and Atilla, 47, have been arrested by US authorities.

"I was a person who was in the public eye all of the time", he said.

Zarrab said he had learned from Zafer Caglayan, who was Turkey's economy minister, that Erdogan and then-treasury minister Ali Babacan had authorized two Turkish banks, Ziraat Bank and VakifBank, to move funds for Iran. Caglayan told him he would smooth the way for gold trades, but only if he got half the profits, which he said ended up totaling more than $50 million.

Zarrab on November 29 told the court he helped Iran use funds deposited in Turkey's state-owned Halkbank to buy gold, which were smuggled to Dubai and sold for cash.

Zarrab has said that Atilla helped design the gold transactions, along with Halkbank's former general manager, Suleyman Aslan. A lawyer for Atilla attacked Zarrab's credibility Tuesday during opening statements, saying the trial is about Zarrab's crimes.

Turkish officials have denied any wrongdoing by Caglayan or others, and the trial has angered that country's leaders.

Turkey's deputy prime minister recently said Zarrab was a "hostage" being forced to testify against Turkey's government.

The testimony by Reza Zarrab in federal court in NY marks the first time the US case has implicated Turkey's president, who had railed against the prosecution and lobbied senior USA officials to release Zarrab.

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