Reza Zarrab
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Reza Zarrab

Reza Zarrab
Born (1983-09-12) 12 September 1983 (age 36)
ResidenceIstanbul, Turkey
Years active2004-present
Ebru Günde? (m. 2010)

Reza Zarrab (Persian: ?‎, Turkish: R?za Sarraf;[4] born 12 September 1983) is an Iranian-born Turkey-based businessman. He has quadruple Iranian,[1]Azerbaijani,[2]Turkish[1] and Macedonian citizenship.[5][6]

On 19 March 2016 he was arrested in the United States,[1] and is accused of being a member of an international criminal organization. He was charged with evading the US economic sanctions on Iran and money laundering[1] in an alleged racket scheme to help Iran bypass the sanctions, involving ministers of the Turkish government of then prime minister and now president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdo?an.[7][8]

His father, Hossein Zarrab, had a close relationship with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad,[9] who served as the President of Iran between 2005 and 2013. The U.S. Department of Treasury accused Hossein Zarrab of violating U.S. sanctions on Iran and slapped a $9.1 million fine against him. His fine was reduced to $2.3 million following his cooperation with the U.S. officials.[10]

Zarrab was arrested by the FBI in Miami in the US on March 19, 2016 and was accused of bank fraud, money laundering and helping the Iranian government in evading the US economic sanctions on Iran to hinder its nuclear-weapons program. His charges; conspiracy to defraud, violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, money laundering, and bank fraud; could bring up to 70 years in prison if found guilty in the U.S. Federal Court.[1]

Early life

Zarrab was born in Tabriz, Iran, to Iranian Azerbaijani parents,[11] and grew up in Azerbaijan and Turkey.[3] Reza Zarrab became a dual citizen of Turkey and the Republic of Azerbaijan after settling in Istanbul.[2] Zarrab's parents remained in Baku through 2010-11; in 2013 they were granted Turkish citizenship reportedly through facilitation of then Interior Minister Muammer Güler. [12]

In 2008, Reza Zarrab married to a Turkish pop star, Ebru Günde? and had a child in 2011.[13] He started his business life in Turkey in 2008 with the company named Royal Maritime A.S. He founded Royal Holding with his brother Mohammed Zarrab (Can Sarraf) in 2010.[14]

Zarrab's chauffeur, Turgut Harpani, was arrested by the Turkish Customs Protection agency during his trip to Russia from Turkey in 2011 for carrying $150 million in cash and was accused of conducting illegal money couriering, but he was then released by Turkish authorities.[15][16] Happani shared his own pictures on Facebook with suitcases full of money. [17]

The Turkish National Intelligence Agency (MIT) urged then Prime Minister Erdo?an in April 2013 about Zarrab's corrupted relations with the Turkish cabinet members.[18] Zarrab received an "exceptional citizenship" and became a Turkish citizen with the decision given by the Turkish Council of Ministers on June 1, 2007.[10] He was accused of bribing $1.5 million to receive Turkish Citizenship in the indictment.[19]

2013 corruption scandal in Turkey

Zarrab, who has a business affiliation with the Iranian billionaire and business magnate Babak Zanjani, was detained in Istanbul on 17 December 2013 due to his involvement with the sons of three ministers (Erdo?an Bayraktar, Muammer Güler and Zafer Ça?layan) in the Turkish government and Egemen Ba, the former minister for EU Affairs and Turkey's chief negotiator in accession talks with the European Union,[20][21][22] in an alleged bribery, corruption and smuggling racket.[23] The court ordered his arrest on 21 December along with Bar Güler, son of Muammer Güler, and Kaan Ça?layan, son of Zafer Ça?layan.[24] He was released on 28 February 2014.[25]

The investigation in Turkey revealed a system to help Iran bypass US sanctions against the country concerning the SWIFT payment system, in a scheme based on Turkish public bank Halkbank, whereby money was transferred to front companies in China and Turkey, and gold bought with that money transferred to Iran via Dubai.[7]

Then Interior Minister Muammer Güler's son, Bar Güler, then Economy Minister Zafer Çaglayan's son, Kaan Çaglayan, and General Director of Halk Bank, Suleyman Arslan, were among the suspects including Reza Zarrab. They were arrested due to accusations of "bribery, professional misconduct, bid rigging, and smuggling".[24][26]

Erdogan backlashed and announced the investigation as a "judicial coup" against his government, and dismissed the prosecutors and police officials investigating the corruption scheme. After a 70-day detainment, Zarrab and the sons of cabinet members were released from jail.[27] Erdogan received harsh criticism for obstructing and undermining justice and putting the judiciary under his executive authority. However, Erdogan announced that "justice has been served".[28]

Egemen Ba, then Minister of European Union Affairs, was dismissed after the corruption investigation. The Ministers of Interior Affairs, Economic Relations, and Environment and Urbanization - Muammer Güler, Zafer Çaglayan, and Erdo?an Bayraktar, respectively - had to resign from their positions.[29] The indictment charged high-ranked officials with significant accusations for receiving bribes: Zafer Caglayan received $52 million worth of bribes; Muammer Guler received $10 million worth of bribes; and Egemen Ba received $1.5 million worth of bribes.[30] The summary of proceedings were sent to the Turkish parliament for the vote on whether to lift ministers' immunity and send them to court. However, given the strong majority of Erdo?an's ruling party (AKP), in January 2015 the parliament did not lift their immunity and swept away the significant investigation.[31]

In May 2014, Erdo?an announced that he initiated a "witch-hunt" against the Gulen movement for, as he alleged, being behind the corruption investigation.[32] Two months after this announcement, the government arrested and detained police officials who conducted the corruption investigation. The prosecutors of the corruption investigation were also dismissed from their positions.[33][34]

While Erdo?an has alleged that Zarrab conducted trade and business in aligned with Turkish interests, there have been several reports that suggest Zarrab's illegal activities extensively harmed the Turkish economy.[35]

Arrest in the United States

On 19 March 2016, Zarrab was arrested in Miami, Florida, for conspiring to evade U.S. sanctions against Iran (by using his gold business to help Iran's government evade the sanctions),[8]money laundering and bank fraud. He was later indicted by a grand jury with charges that could bring up to 75 years in prison.[1][36] The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, led by Preet Bharara,[8] with assistance from a trial attorney of the National Security Division's Counterintelligence and Export Control Section.[1]

During the case, prosecutors have noted that Zarrab donated $4.5 million to a charity founded by Emine Erdo?an, the wife of former prime minister and now president of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdo?an.[8] Prosecutors stated that Zarrab has "close ties" to Erdo?an.[37]

After Zarrab's arrest, shares in Halkbank, whose CEO was among those charged with taking bribes from Zarrab, had fallen by 20%.[8] He has offered to pay $50 million to be granted a bail.[8] Bail has been denied.[6] In their brief against granting bail, prosecutors had argued that "if the defendant were able to reach Turkish soil, he could cause the highest levels of Turkish government to block his return to the United States."[8]

In April 2017, media reported that negotiations involving the U.S. and Turkish governments were undergoing, to the effect that Zarrab would be extradited to Turkey while in return "Turkey would be much less resistant to the US's missions in Syria, and primarily its support to the PYD."[38]

One of the most striking arguments in the indictment about Zarrab was that the Zarrab family sent a letter addressed to the president of Iran's Central Bank and stated that he was ready for "Economic Jihad" against sanctions on Iran.[39]

Erdo?an's first comment on Zarrab's arrest by the United States government was: "it was not a case that interests Turkey".[40] However, it is claimed that Erdo?an, on September 21, 2016 during a special meeting with then Vice President Joe Biden, requested Zarrab's release from jail and prosecutor Bharara to be dismissed from his position. Also, it is claimed that Erdogan's wife, Emine Erdogan, did a similar request to Biden's wife, Jill Biden. Furthermore, Bekir Bozdag, the Turkish Minister of Justice, visited the United States Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch in October 2016 and stated how the Zarrab case was unfounded and that Zarrab should be released[41][42]

In February 2017, Erdo?an agreed to a secret meeting with Zarrab's attorneys, Rudy Giuliani and former Attorney General Michael Mukasey.[43]

Halkbank Deputy Chief Executive Mehmet Hakan Atilla, who was in connection with Zarrab, was arrested in the United States in March 2017 with the charges of "conspiring to evade US sanctions against Iran and other offenses".[44] Afterwards, it was announced in September 2017 that the US charged then Turkish Minister of Economic Affairs Zafer Caglayan and former General Manager of Halk Bank Suleyman Aslan with offenses similar to Zarrab's.[45][46]

Erdo?an appeared to be involved in the allegations about the US investigation. It was claimed that Erdogan's effort to save Zarrab was the fear that the inquiry had reached him.[47] It is also alleged that Erdo?an wanted the US to release Zarrab in return for the detained US citizen pastor Andrew Brunson being held in a prison in Turkey.[48]

Metin Topuz, a Turkish employee of the US Consulate General in Istanbul, was arrested on October 4, 2017 for espionage, being a member of crime network, and taking the evidences of the 2013 corruption investigation to the US. In the arrest warrant, it is emphasized that the main suspects of the December 17th corruption investigation were "foreign intelligence agencies and countries."[49]

As a response to the arrest, the US Embassy in Turkey announced on October 8, 2017, that "visa applications from Turkey were suspended."[50]

On November 16, 2017, NBC News, reported that Zarrab is now cooperating with federal prosecutors in a money-laundering case and that he was then out of jail, a move President Erdo?an had been desperately hoping to avoid.[51] It is thought that Zarrab is Robert Mueller's key to taking down Michael T. Flynn in the 2017 Special Counsel investigation.[52][53]

In response to Zarrab's release from detention to another facility inside the United States, the Turkish government expressed concern as to the status of Zarrab.[54] Two weeks later, Zarrab reappeared in Manhattan court as a witness in the case against Atilla, having accepted a plea deal with federal prosecutors.[55]

A day after Zarrab testified in US Federal District Court, the Turkish government seized the assets of his and his family, including his wife Ebru Günde?.[56]

In October 2019, Bloomberg News reported that President Donald Trump had in 2017 urged his then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to persuade the Department of Justice to drop its case against Zarrab.[57]

Personal life

Zarrab is married to the Turkish singer Ebru Günde?. They have one child together. Ebru Günde? reportedly filed for divorce in September 2016,[58] but the couple reconciled shortly afterwards.[59]

Export award

In June 2015, Zarrab received the Turkish Export Award jointly from the hands of Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmu?, Minister of Economy Nihat Zeybekçi, and President of the Turkish Exporters Council Mehmet Büyükek?i, in a ceremony attended by President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an.[60][61]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Turkish National Arrested for Conspiring to Evade U.S. Sanctions Against Iran, Money Laundering and Bank Fraud - OPA - Department of Justice" (Press release). 3 April 2016. Archived from the original on 3 April 2016. Retrieved 2017.
  2. ^ a b c " ? ' ? ? '". BBC Persian. 18 December 2013. Retrieved 2013.
  3. ^ a b Pamuk, Humeyra (29 April 2014). "Special Report - Golden Loophole: How an alleged Turkish crime ring helped Iran". Reuters. Retrieved 2014.
  4. ^ "Yolsuzluk operasyonu, Reza Zarrab kimdir". Habertürk (in Turkish). 19 December 2013. Retrieved 2014.
  5. ^ "Turkey corruption allegations included in Reza Zarrab case in US". Hürriyet Daily News. 26 May 2016. Retrieved 2016.
  6. ^ a b TM (16 June 2016). "NY court denies bail for Iranian mogul Zarrab, announces US Attorney Bharara - Turkish Minute". Retrieved 2017.
  7. ^ a b Tastekin, Fehim (23 March 2016). "Is Corruption Suspect's US Arrest Bad News For Erdogan?". Al-Monitor. Retrieved 2016.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g "Iran's Turkish Connection: Golden Squeal: Did Officials Help Evade Sanctions?". The Economist. 11 June 2016. Retrieved 2016.
  9. ^ mshabani (9 May 2016). "The downfall of two Iranian tycoons". Archived from the original on 20 October 2017. Retrieved 2017.
  10. ^ a b "Zarrab'? kim TC vatanda yapt?". 4 June 2016. Retrieved 2017.
  11. ^ " ? ? ? ". Iran Wire. 18 December 2013. Retrieved 2013.
  12. ^ "Zarrab's father given citizenship via 'exceptional status'". Zaman Daily News. 14 January 2015. Archived from the original on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 2016.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  13. ^ "Reza Zarrab kimdir? Reza Zarrab'?n hayat?. Ebru Günde?'in e?i Reza Zarrab". (in Turkish). Retrieved 2017.
  14. ^ "HAKKIMIZDA". (in Turkish). Archived from the original on 17 April 2015.
  15. ^ "Günde?'in e?inin ?oförü kaçakç?l?ktan gözalt?nda". (in Turkish). 15 April 2011. Retrieved 2017.
  16. ^ Soysal, U?ur. "?oföründe 150 milyon dolar!". Habertürk (in Turkish). Retrieved 2017.
  17. ^ Radikal (18 December 2013). "Operasyonu ba?latan foto?raf: Facebook'ta balya balya dolar! - Türkiye Haberleri - Radikal". (in Turkish). Retrieved 2017.
  18. ^ "M?T'ten Erdo?an'a Sarraf raporu - BirGü - Halk?n Gazetesi BirGün" (in Turkish). 19 March 2014. Archived from the original on 19 March 2014. Retrieved 2017.
  19. ^ "5 milyon dolara Türk vatanda oldular - Son Dakika Haberler". Retrieved 2017.
  20. ^ "Üç bakana rü?vet suçlamas?". Radikal. 18 December 2013. Archived from the original on 19 December 2013. Retrieved 2013.
  21. ^ "Yolsuzluk ve rü?vet soru?turmas?nda Egemen Ba görüntüleri de ç?kt?!" (in Turkish). T24. 19 December 2013. Archived from the original on 20 December 2013. Retrieved 2013.
  22. ^ "To This Tycoon, Iran Sanctions Were Like Gold". New York Times. 5 October 2013. Retrieved 2013.
  23. ^ "?stanbul'da yolsuzluk ve rü?vet operasyonu". (in Turkish). 17 December 2013. Retrieved 2014.
  24. ^ a b "2 Bakan o?lu ile Reza Zarrab tutukland?". Hurriyet Daily News (in Turkish). 21 December 2013. Retrieved 2014.
  25. ^ "Turkey frees cabinet ministers' sons". BBC News. 28 February 2014. Retrieved 2014.
  26. ^ "Üç bakan?n o?lu gözalt?nda". Hurriyet Daily News (in Turkish). 17 December 2013. Retrieved 2017.
  27. ^ "Reza Zarrab ve Bakan çocuklar? tahliye edildi". Hurriyet Daily News. 28 February 2014. Retrieved 2017.
  28. ^ "Erdo?an: Adalet yerini buldu". Cumhuriyet. 28 February 2014. Retrieved 2017.
  29. ^ Mahmut Hamsici (16 December 2014). "10 soruda: 17-25 Aral?k operasyonlar?" (in Turkish). BBC Türkçe. Retrieved 2017.
  30. ^ "Ba, Ça?layan ve Güler kaç TL rü?vet almakla suçlan?yor?". Cumhuriyet (in Turkish). 16 January 2014. Retrieved 2017.
  31. ^ "AKP'li vekiller 4 eski bakan için vicdanlar?n? s?f?rlad?lar". Cumhuriyet (in Turkish). 20 January 2015. Retrieved 2017.
  32. ^ "Erdo?an: Cad? av?ysa, biz bu cad? av?n? yapacaz, bunu da bilin! - Gündem - T24". (in Turkish). 11 May 2014. Retrieved 2017.
  33. ^ "17-25 Aral?k'?n FETÖ'cü polislerine operasyon - Gündem Haberleri". Habertürk (in Turkish). 28 July 2016. Retrieved 2017.
  34. ^ Aljazeera (12 May 2015). "1725 Aral?k savc?lar?na ihraç". (in Turkish). Retrieved 2017.
  35. ^ . 13 September 2017 en-perde-arkasi/ en-perde-arkasi/ Check |url= value (help). Missing or empty |title= (help)
  36. ^ Raymond, Nate (21 March 2016). "U.S. arrests Turkish businessman accused of evading Iran sanctions". Reuters. Retrieved 2017.
  37. ^ "US prosecutors say businessman with 'close ties' to Turkey's Erdogan poses flight risk". Deutsche Welle. 26 May 2016. Retrieved 2016.
  38. ^ "Rudy Giuliani, the jailed Turkish gold trader and the secret meeting with Erdogan". The Irish Times. 21 April 2017. Retrieved 2019.
  39. ^ Radu, Paul; Ismayilova, Khadija (2 October 2017). "Notorious Laundromats Used in Iran's Anti-Sanction 'Economic Jihad' - OCCRP". Retrieved 2017.
  40. ^ "Cumhurba?kan? Erdo?an'dan R?za Sarraf aç?klamas? - NTV". (in Turkish). 29 March 2016. Retrieved 2017.
  41. ^ "Bharara on whether Turkey pushed for his ouster - CNN Video". CNN. 16 October 2017. Retrieved 2017.
  42. ^ Ignatius, David (12 October 2017). "The man at the crux of the U.S.-Turkey dispute is about to go on trial". The Washington Post.
  43. ^ Weiser, Benjamin; Kingsley, Patrick (20 April 2017). "Why Giuliani Held a Secret Meeting With Turkey's Leader". The New York Times. Retrieved 2017.
  44. ^ "Turkish Banker Arrested For Conspiring To Evade U.S. Sanctions Against Iran And Other Offenses". 28 March 2017. Retrieved 2017.
  45. ^ "M.Hakan Atilla Yakalama Karar?nda Halkbank'a Çok Ar Suçlamalar Ç?kt? -". 29 March 2017. Retrieved 2017.
  46. ^ "Former Turkish Minister Of The Economy, Former General Manager Of Turkish Government-Owned Bank, And Two Other Individuals Charged With Conspiring To Evade U.S. Sanctions Against Iran And Other Offenses". (Press release). 6 September 2017. Retrieved 2017.
  47. ^ Kingsley, Patrick; Weiser, Benjamin (14 October 2017). "Why a New York Court Case Has Rattled Turkey's President". New York Times. Retrieved 2017.
  48. ^ Tahiroglu, Merve; Edelman, Eric S. (7 July 2017). "Opinion - Why Trump should not swap prisoners with Erdogan". Washington Post. Retrieved 2017.
  49. ^ "Takvim Gazetesi". Retrieved 2017.
  50. ^ "ABD Türkiye'den vize ba?vurular?n? ask?ya ald? - Bloomberg HT". 8 October 2017. Retrieved 2017.
  51. ^ Winter, Tom; Ainsley, Julia (16 November 2017). "Does cooperating witness have info on Flynn tie to Turkey?". NBC News. Retrieved 2017.
  52. ^ Zavadski, Katie (16 November 2017). "Did the Feds Flip Turkish Businessman Reza Zarrab--and Could He Bring Down Michael Flynn?". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 2017.
  53. ^ "Man Accused In U.S. Iran Sanctions Case Reported Working With Prosecutors". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. 17 November 2017. Retrieved 2017.
  54. ^ kjenson (16 November 2017). "Turkey demands news as Zarrab drops off radar". Al-Monitor. Archived from the original on 23 November 2017. Retrieved 2017.
  55. ^ Connor, Tracy (28 November 2017). "Gold trader Zarrab will be star witness in Iran sanction-busting trial". NBC News. Retrieved 2019.
  56. ^ Weiser, Benjamin (1 December 2017). "Turkey Seizes Assets of Reza Zarrab, Witness in Sanctions-Evasion Case". New York Times. Retrieved 2017.
  57. ^ Wadhams, Nick; Mohsin, Saleha; Baker, Stephanie; Jacobs, Jennifer (9 October 2019). "Trump Urged Top Aide to Help Giuliani Client Facing DOJ Charges". Retrieved 2019.
  58. ^ "Ebru Günde?'ten 'bo?anma' için ilk aç?klama" (in Turkish). Hürriyet. 25 September 2016. Retrieved 2017.
  59. ^ "Reza Zarrab ile Ebru Günde?'in bo?anma davas?nda sürpriz geli?me" (in Turkish). Hürriyet. 4 August 2017. Retrieved 2017.
  60. ^ "? ? +". Mashregh. 23 June 2015. Retrieved 2015.
  61. ^ "Reza Zarrab'a ihracat ödülü" [Export award for Reza Zarrab]. Hürriyet. 22 June 2015. Retrieved 2016.

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