US attorney: Zarrab case not linked to case in Turkey

RAGIP SOYLU @ragipsoylu
Published 10.04.2016 22:42

The arrest of Iranian-Turkish businessman Reza Zarrab in Miami is not linked to the so-called corruption inquiry in Turkey, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said last week in a speech at the New York Press Association.

Zarrab, also known as Rıza Sarraf in Turkey, was arrested last month in the U.S. on charges that he and others evaded U.S. financial sanctions on the Iranian government by facilitating international transactions. He has been waiting in Miami to be transferred to New York following his waiving a bond hearing.

Zarrab's Turkish lawyer Şeyda Yıldırım has previously told British news wire that his arrest had nothing to do with the Dec. 17, 2013 operation. Turkish authorities consider the so-called corruption inquiry as a plot perpetrated by members of Pennsylvania-based imam Fethullah Gülen's movement to topple the government. Gülen, a former ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who fell out with the government over peace negotiations with the PKK terrorist group, is known for his huge follower base in the Turkish judiciary and police.

Bharara also disappointed Turkish conspiracy theorists by saying that Zarrab was on vacation in Miami when he was arrested. Many commentators in Turkey have claimed that Zarrab had decided to visit the U.S. after cutting a deal with the FBI. Bharara's social media activities, including his decision to briefly follow Erdoğan's Twitter account, led many people to believe that the U.S. investigation is directly linked with the one in Turkey.

"That he has been arrested at some point in Turkey has no bearing in our case," Bharara said. He also lamented the coverage in the Turkish press on his links with his former boss, New York Senator Chuck Schumer, who is known for his staunch stance against the Iranian regime. Bharara worked with Schumer as his chief council until 2009 and was subsequently nominated to this position by his former boss. Schumer's proximity to the Gülen Movement in the United States has been a central topic in Turkish media. Schumer has allegedly received thousands of dollars from Gülenist donors and has been an outspoken critic of Erdoğan in his speeches that he has given at Gülen Movement-run entities like the Washington-based Turkic American Alliance.

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