Reza Zarrab, Businessman Who Allegedly Laundered Money For Iranian Government To Avoid U.S. Sanctions, Indicted

Reza Zarrab, an Iranian-born Turkish man, who was arrested in Florida over the weekend on charges that he and other men siphoned hundreds of millions of dollars in financial transactions on behalf of the Iranian government to evade U.S. sanctions, has been charged in a federal court in Manhattan, prosecutors said Monday.

As Turkish Weekly reports, Zarrab was arrested while Hossein Najafzadeh 65, a senior officer of an Iranian bank, and employee Kamelia Jamshidy, 29, both Iranian citizens, remain at large.

Turkish-Iranian tycoon Reza Zarrab, arrested in Miami on Mar.20, to remain in a federal prison at least until Apr.4

— Mustafa Edib Yılmaz (@MustafaEdib) March 23, 2016

The arrest is coming two months after Iran came back from years in economic limbo when world powers, including the United States, Germany, France, and other members of the European Union, sanctioned Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

In 2013, Zarrab was detained for two months in Turkey over allegations of corruption and bribery. He was fingered as the ringleader in gold smuggling and money laundering racket in Turkey by doing a run around the sanctions imposed on Iran. The charges were dropped when prosecutors investigating the case were controversially removed and accused of plotting against the government.

Erdogan, the Prime Minister, said the situation as a coup attempt meant to discredit his party and implied that the U.S., Israel, and other western countries were working behind the scenes threatening to expel the U.S. ambassador to Turkey, Francis Ricciardone. Zarrab was freed four months after Erdogan’s government came to power, and was honored with an “export champions” award in a ceremony attended by the economy minister and the deputy prime minister.

The U.S. indictment says Zarrab owned and operated a slew of companies in the United Arab Emirates and Turkey, where he conspired between 2010 and 2015 with Jamshidy and Najafzadeh to shield transactions that benefited the Iranian government and its allies. The indictment says that the trio was engaged in fraudulent activities to swindle the United States via bank fraud and money laundering, a violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.

The indictment quotes from a 2011 letter written by Zarrab and addressed to the general manger of the Central Bank of Iran, which read, in part, “it is no secret that the trend is moving towards intensifying and increasing the sanctions and since the wise leader of the Islamic Revolution of Iran has announced this to be the year of the Economic jihad, the Zarrab family, which has half a century of experience in foreign exchange…considers it to be our national and moral duty to declare our willingness to participate in any kind of cooperation in order to implement monetary and foreign exchange anti-sanction polices.”

Oppositions leaders have expressed hope that the arrest of Zarrab will again bring to light again the scandal in 2013 that the Islamist Justice and Development Party and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan helped cover up.

Chairman of the Republican People’s Party Kemal Kilicdaroglu commented in parliament Tuesday over Zarrab’s arrest, saying, “I am sure many will not get a wink of sleep tonight, they won’t be able to sleep in comfort in their beds. Reza Zarrab will confess in the U.S., you will see. He added that ‘dirty relations” would be exposed and the massive fraud allegations involving four ruling party cabinet ministers would be revisited.

According to CBS News, John Carlin, assistant Attorney General for national security, has confirmed that laws were, indeed, violated, and subsequent moves were made to cover up the illegal actions, thereby undermining the U.S. laws designed to protect the national security interests of America. Carlin went on to reveal that the companies managed by Zarrab concealed transactions from U.S. banks and the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).

[Image via Shutterstock/Borna_Mirahmadian]