Turkish-Iranian gold trader, Reza Zarrab, detailed a scheme to evade U.S. sanctions against Iran as he testified against Turkish banker, Mehmet Hakan Atilla, in a Manhattan court on Wednesday. Photo by sebra/Shutterstock
Nov. 29 (UPI) -- A Turkish-Iranian gold trader testified about his role in a scheme to evade U.S. sanctions against Iran on Wednesday.
Reza Zarrab took the stand at a Manhattan court and detailed how he bribed Turkey's former economic minister, Mehmet Zafer Caglayan, as part of a scheme to smuggle gold for oil in violation of U.S. sanctions against Iran, as he testified against Turkish banker, Mehmet Hakan Atilla.
Zarrab, 34, became the star witness when he agreed to cooperate with U.S. authorities to describe the details of the complex sanctions-busting operation to the court.
He used markers and poster-board to draw diagrams explaining how the money-laundering scheme worked.
Zarrab estimated he paid Caglayan more than $60 million, as prosecutors showed the jury a partial list of bribes he paid to the economic minister including 31 million Euros, $4 million in U.S. dollars and 2.4 million Turkish lira.
"[Caglayan] said, 'I can broker this providing there is a profit share - 50-50,'" Zarrab told the court.
There are a total of nine defendants in the case, including Caglayan, but most remain in Turkey, leaving Atilla to stand on trial alone.
Last month Zarrab secretly pleaded guilty to charges that he conspired to violate the U.S. sanctions placed on Iran and agreed to testify against Atilla.
"Cooperation was the fastest way to accept responsibility and to get out of jail at once," he told a prosecutor on Wednesday.
Zarrab was arrested in the United States in March 2016, after landing in a private jet with $100,000 to spend on a family vacation in Disney World.
He is currently being held in FBI custody at an undisclosed location and told the prosecutor he is "definitely not" free to go as he pleases.
After his arrest he hired attorneys to investigate a potential "prisoner exchange" to secure his release and former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey visited Turkey on his behalf.
Prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney David Denton, told the jury Atilla was the "architect" of the scheme to avoid the sanctions while defense attorney Victor Rocco said Zarrab was the mastermind and is using his plea agreement against Atilla as a "get out of jail free card."
"The evidence will show he waged economic jihad against the U.S.," Rocco said of Zarrab. "He made hundreds of millions of dollars ... which he used to buy jets and yachts and people."