Turk­ish trader seeks $50m bail in US sanc­tions case

Pakistan Observer - - INTERNATIONAL -

NEW YORK—A lawyer for a wealthy Ira­nian-born Turk­ish gold trader ac­cused of con­spir­ing to vi­o­late U.S. sanc­tions against Iran urged a U.S. judge on Thurs­day to re­lease his client from jail on a $50 mil­lion bond and to place him un­der house ar­rest.

Ben­jamin Braf­man, a lawyer for Reza Zarrab, told a Man­hat­tan fed­eral judge that his client posed no risk of flee­ing if he was al­lowed to re­side be­fore trial at a 15floor apart­ment un­der 24-hour watch by armed guards paid for at his per­sonal cost.

“He has ev­ery in­cen­tive to clear his name,” Braf­man said. As­sis­tant U.S. At­tor­ney Michael Lockard coun­tered that Zarrab if re­leased could use his wealth to flee the coun­try, and urged U.S. District Judge Richard Ber­man to not al­low him to hire guards who would be­come “jail­ers be­ing paid by the in­mate.”

But Braf­man noted other well-off de­fen­dants have been granted sim­i­lar house ar­rest ar­range­ments with pri­vate guards. Those in­clude con­victed Ponzi schemer Bernard Mad­off, Ma­cau bil­lion­aire Ng Lap Seng, and New York lawyer Marc Dreier.

While Braf­man ac­knowl­edged low-in­come in­di­vid­u­als could not af­ford to seek sim­i­lar ar­range­ments, that is “not some­thing that is Mr. Zarrab’s fault, nor is it some­thing we’re go­ing to solve to­day.”

Ber­man said he would rule in one or two weeks on whether to grant bail to Zarrab, 33, who has been in cus­tody since his ar­rest in Mi­ami in March on a fam­ily trip to Dis­ney World.

Pros­e­cu­tors said from 2010 to 2015, Zarrab and two oth­ers en­gaged in hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars of trans­ac­tions on be­half of Iran’s govern­ment and Ira­nian en­ti­ties in a scheme to evade U.S. sanc­tions.

Zarrab’s case has gar­nered head­lines in Turkey, where he was ar­rested in 2013 along with sev­eral mem­bers of the govern­ment on charges that he bribed of­fi­cials to fa­cil­i­tate trans­ac­tions ben­e­fit­ing Iran.

Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Tayyip Er­do­gan, then prime min­is­ter, cast the case as a coup at­tempt or­ches­trated by his po­lit­i­cal en­e­mies. Sev­eral pros­e­cu­tors were re­moved from the case, po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tors re­as­signed and the in­ves­ti­ga­tion was dropped.

In ar­gu­ing against bail, U.S. pros­e­cu­tors said the Turk­ish case showed the lengths Zarrab would go to free him­self “by caus­ing the whole­sale re­or­ga­ni­za­tion of the Turk­ish prose­cu­tor’s of­fice and po­lice depart­ment through bribery.”

Pros­e­cu­tors said Zarrab’s tremen­dous re­sources also make him a flight risk, cit­ing his own­er­ship of busi­nesses that gen­er­ate $11 bil­lion an­nu­ally, an air­plane, sev­eral homes and yachts.

The case is U.S. v. Zarrab, U.S. District Court, South­ern District of New York, No. 15-cr-867.

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