Erdogan helped Iran evade United States sanctions, Zarrab claims

Reza Zarrab is shown in this court room sketch with lawyer Marc Agnifilo as he appears in Manhattan federal court in New York U.S

Zarrab said he used the guard's phone to speak with his wife, daughter and lawyer.

In January, Zarrab bragged he had bribed a Bureau of Prisons employee $4,000 so both men would be moved to a wing of the prison with cells that afforded more privacy, Jaber charges. Reza Zarrab, who has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with USA prosecutors in the case, also said he had complained about Halkbank deputy general manager Mehmet Hakan Atilla to Atilla's former superior on multiple occasions.

According Zarrab's agreement with prosecutors to plead guilty to some charges in exchange for leniency, Zarrab paid bribes to foreign officials and corporate representatives between 2002 and March 2016 in return for personal benefits, favorable business dealings, and the protection of government officials. The testimony came as Zarrab was cross-examined by one of Atilla's lawyers, Cathy Fleming. Zarrab previously testified under questioning by a prosecutor that he worked with Halkbank from 2012 to 2016 to help Iran spend its oil and gas revenue overseas using fraudulent gold and food transactions.

Zarrab also said for the first time on Thursday that Turkey's Ziraat Bank and VakıfBank were involved in the scheme and that former Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan signed off with Erdoğan on the operation. He said he had a "close relationship" with Suleyman Aslan, who was Halkbank's general manager and Atilla's superior until 2013.

The alleged rape victim and Zarrab became friends in the jail and Zarrab offered to pay for him to retain a private lawyer, as he was being represented by a public defender, the paper said.

A day after Zarrab testified that it was Erdogan who ordered billions in transactions to Iran, prosecutors in Turkey seized Zarrab and his family's assets. Zarrab is testifying against Turkish banker Mehmet Hakan Atilla.

Reuters was not immediately able to reach Aslan for comment.

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US prosecutors say claims the trial resulted from political maneuvering are "ridiculous".

As part of his October 26 guilty plea to sanctions violations, Zarrab also admitted to having bribed a guard while in jail to access contraband items like alcohol and the guard's cellphone.

A trial playing out in NY is being watched carefully in Turkey. He said prosecutors told him he would not be charged for those crimes because they were outside USA jurisdiction.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday that the trial is a conspiracy to "blemish" the country.

After Erdoğan cast the case as a coup attempt to overthrow his government orchestrated by his political enemies, several prosecutors were removed from the case, police were reassigned and the investigation against Zarrab was dropped in Turkey.

Zarrab was charged in a plot to help Iran avoid US economic sanctions and flood financial institutions with $1 billion of oil revenue.

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