Rudy Giuliani and Michael Mukasey appear to have angered U.S. District Court Judge Richard M. Berman of the Southern District of New York, who described the pair on Tuesday as “surprisingly disingenuous” for their role in the case against Turkish businessman Reza Zarrab, as reported by Bloomberg. Berman’s irritation with Giuliani and Mukasey was provoked by twin affidavits filed by the two men on Zarrab’s behalf, both of which dismissed the charges against him as a matter of “consumer goods” rather than weapons or military technology without mentioning that the Iranian government and its elite Quds Force unit may have benefited from the illegal transactions.
Zarrab is accused of helping the Iranian government avoid some of the sanctions against it through a complex money laundering scheme. According to Bloomberg, prosecutors allege that Mahan Air, an Iranian airline connected to the Quds Force, used a front company called Ascot General Trading to do business with Zarrab’s corporate network and disguise the source of millions of dollars worth of business transactions in order to avoid the sanctions against Iran.
Zarrab has retained former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey as part of his legal team, although neither Mukasey nor Giuliani will be representing him directly in court. The role of Giuliani and Mukasey on Zarrab’s team is largely outside the courtroom and involves personal meetings with officials who may have the influence to help their client. Along with filing their affidavits downplaying the trouble Zarrab is in, Mukasey and Giuliani also flew to Turkey and met with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to talk to him about the case, as reported by Bloomberg. Giuliani and Mukasey have also tried to schedule meetings with U.S. officials to get them to drop the charges against their client. Regardless of these attempts, the case of United States v. Zarrab (15-cr-867) has proceeded as planned.
When Judge Berman read the affidavits prepared by Michael Mukasey and Rudy Giuliani on Zarrab’s behalf, he criticized the two for minimizing the charges faced by their client. Giuliani and Mukasey both pointed out that Zarrab was not accused of dealing in contraband or nuclear technology, only of irregularities in business deals involving ordinary consumer goods. Neither Giuliani nor Mukasey mentioned Iran at all, despite the fact that the Iranian connection is the central issue in the case. Judge Berman insisted that Giuliani and Mukasey must be well aware that the charges were serious, and that “if the allegations in the indictment are found or established by a jury, the defendants will be shown to have committed serious felonies” according to CBS Local.
Both Giuliani and Mukasey are employed by firms connected to the victims of Zarrab’s alleged scam, according to CBS New York. Giuliani’s firm is Greenberg Traurig LLP, according to Bloomberg, which is a registered agent for the Turkish government according to CBS Local. Bloomberg also reports that Michael Mukasey’s firm is Debevoise & Plimpton LLP. Tuesday’s hearing was meant to assess whether Zarrab understood that Rudy Giuliani and Michael Mukasey have this potential conflict of interest and that retaining the two men could potentially harm his defense. Zarrab told the judge he had never even spoken with Rudy Giuliani, and his lawyer Benjamin Brafman declined to comment according to CBS Local, although he had previously stated that neither man was involved in negotiating any potential plea or in preparing for trial.
Lawyers for both Mukasey and Giuliani described their client’s activities as being both lawful and “not at all unprecedented,” as reported by Bloomberg. Judge Berman postponed any decision on the issue until May 11.
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