December 4, 2017 / 11:01 PM / 10 months ago

UPDATE 1-Gold trader says he paid bribes to get out of Turkish jail after 2013 arrest

 (Adds additional testimony from Zarrab)
    By Jonathan Stempel and Brendan Pierson
    NEW YORK, Dec 4 (Reuters) - A Turkish-Iranian gold trader
testifying at the trial of a Turkish bank executive in a New
York federal court said Monday that he paid bribes to secure his
release from jail in Turkey following his arrest in 2013.
    The trader, Reza Zarrab, has pleaded guilty to charges that
he schemed to help Iran evade U.S. sanctions, and is testifying
for U.S. prosecutors against Mehmet Hakan Atilla, an executive
at Turkey's state-owned Halkbank            on trial for related
    Halkbank has said all of its transactions complied with
national and international regulations.
    Zarrab said he made payments to secure his release in
February 2014 after he was arrested in a corruption
investigation, and that those payments were "partly" bribes. He
did not say how large the payments were or who received them.
    Representatives of the Turkish government could not
immediately be reached for comment.
    Zarrab testified that he worked with Halkbank on behalf of
Iran both before and after his arrest in Turkey, and continued
to do so until his U.S. arrest in March 2016. He said that
Atilla continued participating in the scheme as well.
    Victor Rocco, a lawyer for Atilla, told jurors in his
opening statement last week that Atilla did not take part in any
    Earlier on Monday, Atilla's lawyers said in a letter to U.S.
District Judge Richard Berman that prosecutors improperly
delayed turning over evidence that could help their client until
late Saturday night.
    They said the evidence included a summary of a Sept. 15,
2016 call between Zarrab, then held in a U.S. jail, and an
individual identified only as Ahad. In the call summary, Zarrab
told Ahad that "you need to admit to crimes you haven't
committed" to get a reduced sentence in the United States.
    The letter was later removed from online court records
without explanation.
    Atilla's lawyers said the call showed that Zarrab was
willing to lie in exchange for leniency. 
    "Mr. Zarrab understands his obligation to provide fully
truthful testimony," Robert Anello, a lawyer for Zarrab, said in
an email on Monday.
    A spokesman for the prosecutors declined to comment.
    Prosecutors have charged nine defendants with taking part in
a scheme that involved gold trades and fake purchases of food to
give Iran access to international markets, violating U.S.
sanctions. Only Zarrab, 34, and Atilla, 47, have been arrested
by U.S. authorities.
    Zarrab's testimony has implicated top Turkish politicians,
including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has claimed that
his political opponents are behind both the U.S. case and the
Turkish case that led to Zarrab's 2013 arrest.             
    Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Friday that the
U.S. case was an attempt to undermine Turkey's economy, and the
state-run Anadolu news agency reported that Turkey would seize
Zarrab's assets.             

 (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Alden
Bentley and Mary Milliken)
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