It was reported a couple of weeks ago that Turkish gold trader Reza Zarrab, who is under indictment for violating US sanctions on Iran along with three others, had been released from the Metropolitan Correctional Facility in Brooklyn and has completely disappeared. The FBI has stated that Mr. Zarrab is still in their custody but have refused to answer any further questions on his whereabouts. The trial was scheduled to start this month but Mr. Zarrab and his lawyers have not participated in trial preparations since September which according, to legal experts, is clear signs that his planing to plead guilty.
So, just who is Reza Zarrab and why is he so important and why is Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan so interested in his release? The answers are somewhat simple, but how they relate to former Trump Security advisor Michael T. Flynn and the Russian investigation.
He is a 34 year old billionaire business man who holds triple Iranian, Azerbaijani, and Turkish citizenship, while also holding a Macedonian passport. He is accused of using his network of companies to move money through the U.S. financial system on behalf of Iran and related companies to help them evade sanctions limitations. Erdogan has been involved in case from the beginning putting pressure on Vice President Joe Biden and insisting the US Attorney Preet Brahara, who was in charge of the case, be fired. Since then, Erdogan has called Donald Trump directly. Trump did fire Brahara in March but the trial moved forward nonetheless.
According to Bloomberg News, Erdogan main concern is the case threatens to expose how powerful figures in Turkey may have undermined U.S. sanctions on Iran.
It has also forced one of Turkey’s biggest banks to confront accusations that it helped Iran gain access to the U.S. financial system while Iran was subject to stiff sanctions over its nuclear ambitions.
Erdogan and his ministers have accused the US of using the case to undermine the Turkish economy. Much of Erdogan’s popularity resulted from his successful economic reforms, his domestic political support would be undermined by a downturn. So, yes, this is personal for the Turkish strongman.
The more complicated question that is being raised by speculation in the media, is the link to Flynn and the Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. NBC news thinks this may be the connection:
Special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating whether Erdogan offered Flynn upwards of $15 million during the presidential transition in December to use his upcoming position as national security advisor to return his top political rival, Fethullah Gulen, from the U.S. to Turkey and to see that Zarrab’s case was dropped, NBC has reported.
Attorney Danny Cevallos, a legal analyst for MSNBC and NBC News, says that given the relationship between Erdogan and Zarrab and the allegations of an improper relationship between Flynn and the Turkish government, Zarrab’s decision to cooperate with federal prosecutors is a significant development. [..]
Cevallos said that based on his experience and what he’s read about the case, Zarrab’s release from federal jail to federal custody is entirely consistent with someone who is cooperating.
The Daily Beast is also reporting that as part of the $15 million deal to kidnap Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, Flynn and his son, Michael G., would assist in the release of Zarrab.
MSNBC host Rachel Maddow walks us through the time line of Flynn’s connections with Turkey and Russia.
Still it remains to be seen how Zarrab’s alleged cooperation with prosecutors will help Mueller make his case against Flynn and his son. We await the next shoe to drop.