Turkish Gold Trader's Dramatic Testimony Ends at Knifepoint

Turkish Gold Trader's Dramatic Testimony Ends at Knifepoint

His comments in Ankara, Turkey, came as the trial of Halkbank executive Mehmet Hakan Atilla continued in its second week, with Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab describing criminal activities he was forced to divulge after he pleaded guilty to seven charges in October and became a government cooperator. Zarrab testified that Atilla, who worked at the state-run HalkBank, never asked Zarrab for kickbacks and Zarrab never paid him bribes.

The plaintiff in the lawsuit says he was extradited past year to New York City from Prague and is being held in a federal lockup in Manhattan while awaiting sentencing.

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.

Zarrab said that the man acknowledged coming after him because he had flipped to the USA government.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday that the trial is a conspiracy to "blemish" the country.

A Turkish-Iranian gold trader testified Thursday he fears for the safety of his family and himself after the government of Turkey launched an espionage investigation and after he was attacked in prison by a knife-wielding inmate who claimed he was told to kill him for cooperating with United States authorities.

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.

He testified that he paid bribes to Turkish banking and government officials, including over $50 million in bribes to Turkey's former finance minister Zafer Caglayan in 2012 for his help in laundering a billion dollars in Iranian money.


Zarrab hired a private lawyer for Jaber and in September 2016 put money in Jaber's commissary account, the suit says. On Thursday CNN Turk said Erdogan had said Turkey did not violate USA sanctions.

"He said that he had received instructions to kill because I was cooperating", he said.

Newly released from prison, Zarrab said, he considered starting "to trade again" at Halkbank.

Zarrab's testimony in the ongoing case will likely will win him leniency against charges that could carry a prison term of up to 130 years.

Atilla's defense team has said he is "not corrupt". Zarrab also wired money to Jaber's family in Africa, the suit says.

The two men were housed in different cells in the same unit of the Brooklyn jail when they developed a friendship because both were Shia Muslims, the suit claims.

The lawsuit also alleges that the man "felt helpless and unable to fight off the younger and stronger man", and the alleged victim was "too scared and embarrassed at that time to complain or to seek help".

Zarrab's lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, denied the charges.

.

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