New York: Turkish-Iranian gold mogul Reza Zarrab will not stand trial in New York for allegedly defying sanctions on Iran, a US judge confirmed today at the start of jury selection.
In a case that has inflamed tensions between Turkey and the United States, all signs now suggest that the 34-year-old businessman has cut a deal with prosecutors and agreed to plead guilty, which could potentially still see him testify.
US District Judge Richard Berman told the start of jury selection in a federal court in Manhattan that Turkish banker Mehmet Hakan Atilla would be the only defendant in what is expected to be a three to four week trial.
“He is the only defendant in this trial,” said Berman of 47-year-old Atilla, charged on six counts of violating US sanctions on Iran, bribery and money laundering charges.
Atilla, the deputy chief executive of Turkish lender Halkbank, was in court today. There was no sign of Zarrab.
If Zarrab has indeed agreed to cooperate with US prosecutors, he could potentially be called as a witness in the case, a potential embarrassment for the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that has railed against the trial.
His name was included on a nine-page list of people and entities that could either be mentioned or called to testify at Atilla’s trial, listed as “alleged co-conspirator,” according to The New York Times.
The case has provoked the ire of Erdogan who has raised the issue repeatedly in official talks with US administrations under Barack Obama and President Donald Trump.
Earlier today, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag urged Washington to drop the case, saying it had “no legal basis” and should be “dropped or terminated”.