December 6, 2017 / 1:18 AM / a year ago

UPDATE 1-Turkish gold trader says he paid $45,000 bribe to U.S. prison guard

 (Adds Zarrab testimony)
    By Brendan Pierson
    NEW YORK, Dec 5 (Reuters) - A Turkish-Iranian gold trader
testifying in the trial of a Turkish banker accused of helping
Iran evade U.S. sanctions said on Tuesday that he paid a $45,000
bribe to a U.S. prison guard to obtain alcohol and use the
guard's phone.
    Reza Zarrab, who is cooperating with prosecutors, testified 
that he got the money through a Turkish attorney whom he did not
identify. Zarrab said he used the guard's phone to speak with
his wife, daughter and lawyer.
    The U.S. Bureau of Prisons could not immediately be reached
for comment.
    Mehmet Hakan Atilla, an executive at Turkey's state-owned
Halkbank           , is on trial in Manhattan federal court. He 
has pleaded not guilty. 
    Zarrab testified on Tuesday under cross-examination by
Atilla's attorney, Cathy Fleming, that he and Atilla did not
like each other. 
    Zarrab said he worked with Halkbank from 2012 to 2016 to
help Iran spend its oil and gas revenue abroad using fraudulent
gold and food transactions. He said Atilla helped structure
those transactions. 
    Halkbank said last week that it had not taken part in any
illegal transactions.
    Under questioning by Fleming, Zarrab said he attended
meetings with Atilla a "handful" of times during that period. He
said he had a "close relationship" with Suleyman Aslan, who was
Halkbank's general manager and Atilla's superior until 2013.
Zarrab said he sometimes complained about Atilla to Aslan. 
    Zarrab had testified earlier in the case that he complained
to Aslan when Atilla refused to sign off on a transaction
related to a sham sale of food to Iran. 
    Under direct examination last week, Zarrab testified that at
that time, Atilla did not know the transaction was a sham and so
was confused by it.
    Zarrab said he paid bribes to Aslan, repeating his testimony
in direct examination, but never to Atilla. 
    Reuters was not immediately able to reach Aslan for comment.
    Prosecutors have charged nine people in the case with
conspiring to help Iran evade sanctions, but only Zarrab, 34,
and Atilla, 47, have been arrested by U.S. authorities.
Prosecutors disclosed last week that Zarrab pled guilty in
October to helping Iran avoid sanctions and bribing a guard.
    Zarrab testified on Tuesday that in return for his guilty
plea prosecutors said he would not be charged with lying to law
enforcement officers after his arrest and smoking synthetic
marijuana in jail.
    He told the court that he admitted to U.S. prosecutors that
he had paid bribes in Turkey, misstated his Turkish income
between 2002 and 2016 and procured prostitutes for other people
around 2013. He said prosecutors told him he would not be
charged for those crimes because they were outside U.S.
    Zarrab has accused Turkish politicians, including President
Recep Tayyip Erdogan of helping Iran evade U.S. sanctions.
Erdogan on Sunday dismissed the case as a politically motivated
attack on Turkey.              
    On Thursday CNN Turk reported that Erdogan had said Turkey
did not violate U.S. sanctions.            

 (Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York; Additional reporting
by Tina Bellon in New York; Editing by Alden Bentley, Toni
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