Nov 29

The Russian Connection: More Turkey, Please

It was announced yesterday by federal prosecutors in New York that Iranian, Turkish billionaire Reza Zarrab had plead guilty to charges that he had violated US sanctions against Iran and would testify against his co-defendent.

Zarrab’s plea deal was unsealed, and he admitted to seven charges listed in a superseding information filed in the case on Oct. 26, 2017.

The seven-count superseding information, filed under seal on Oct. 16 2017, charged Zarrab with conspiracy to defraud the U.S., conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, bank fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. The new charge relates to his bribery attempts while in a U.S. prison. [..]

Zarrab’s cooperation with federal prosecutors raised speculation that he was also cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry into Flynn, because it seemed unlikely prosecutors would offer a plea deal to Zarrab in exchange for his cooperation for the comparatively lower-profile trial of Atilla.

Today, Zarrab testified at the trial and dropped a shoe on two Trump cronies

Rudy Giuliani and Michael Mukasey tried to broker a prisoner exchange between the United States and Turkey to free their Turkish client, Reza Zarrab, he testified in Manhattan federal court Wednesday.

Zarrab said on the stand he hired lawyers to attempt to negotiate a prisoner exchange between the U.S. and Turkey “within the legal limits,” but that they were unsuccessful. He did not name the attorneys, but Giuliani and Mukasey were previously identified as the lawyers working to strike a diplomatic deal for Zarrab.

Zarrab, a Turkish gold trader, was the architect and main facilitator of a cash-for-gold scheme to help Turkey buy Iranian oil and evade sanctions.

Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, is a long-time friend of Trump who was considered for several Cabinet posts. Mukasey was attorney general under President George W. Bush.

Giuliani and Mukasey avoided mentioning the “central role” of Iran in the charges against Zarrab on filings submitted to the court about their work and said the case had no serious implications for U.S. national security. Judge Richard Berman slammed the omissions as “disingenuous” earlier this year. (Giuliani previously called Iranians “suicidal homicidal maniacs.”)

The speculation continues whether Zarrab is also cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump camapign’s connection to Russian interference in the 2016 election.