Binali Yildirim

Turkey: US trial of gold trader meant to ‘corner’ economy

Press TV – Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim has denounced as politically motivated a recent testimony given by Turkish businessman Reza Zarrab in a US court implicating President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in an alleged Iran sanctions-busting scheme.

Speaking in Istanbul on Friday, Yildirim said he hoped Zarrab, a Turkish citizen of Iranian descent, would “turn back from his mistake” in cooperating with US prosecutors.

“This court case has stopped being judicial and become completely political, with the sole aim to corner Turkey and its economy,” he added.

Zarrab said in a New York court on Wednesday that he was told in 2012 by the then economy minister, Zafer Caglayan, that Erdogan, who was prime minister at the time, had personally instructed Ziraat Bank and VakifBank to participate in the scheme to allegedly help Iran evade US sanctions.

The businessman also noted that he had bribed Caglayan and Halkbank’s former general manager, Suleyman Aslan, to facilitate deals with the Islamic Republic.

Reza Zarrab, Turkish gold trader of Iranian descent (Photo by AFP)

Erdogan said on Thursday that Turkey did not violate US bans against Iran and “did the right thing.”

Vakifbank also said on Friday that it had never had any interest or involvement whatsoever in any of the processes mentioned in Zarrab’s trial.

“VakifBank has always acted in compliance with laws and related legislations and shown utmost care and diligence to act in accordance with the laws and the related legislations,” the bank said in a statement to the Istanbul stock exchange.

Additionally, Halkbank rejected any wrongdoing and warned that the accusations, which were leveled against it in media in an “incorrect, biased, deficient, disconnected to the contextual unity, inconsistent” way, harm the bank’s confidence and reputation.

US prosecutors have charged a total of nine people in the case with purportedly conspiring to help Iran evade sanctions, but only Zarrab, and Mehmet Hakan Atilla, a former deputy chief of Halkbank, have been arrested.