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4/18/17

Trump-Erdogan Ties: Messy Web of Ties, Some to Trump, in Turkish Mogul's Case

In the year since Reza Zarrab ( born in Iran and Turkish resident) was arrested in Miami, his case has grown ever more complex and far-reaching. As Turkey presses the Trump administration to get the charges tossed, an increasingly messy web of connections has come into view, prompting questions about conflicts of interest, Turkish corruption and pro-Turkey lobbying by individuals near the center of Trump's orbit.

Recently federal prosecutors raised fresh concerns about a recent trip that former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani made to Turkey to consult with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan about the case.

Joining Giuliani was former Attorney General Michael Mukasey.

Both were hired by Zarrab's defense. But oddly, neither is involved in pleading the case in U.S. District Court, leading prosecutors to wonder if the defense is trying to circumvent the regular judicial process by going above prosecutors' heads.

In a letter to the judge, Zarrab's attorneys said what Giuliani and Mukasey are up to "quite frankly is none of the government's business."

Zarrab, a 33-year-old gold-trader married to a Turkish pop star, was arrested in Florida last year. He and several others are accused of conspiring to evade U.S. sanctions against Iran, using a network of companies to mask the true nature of transactions and defraud multiple banks. Prosecutors say they processed hundreds of millions of dollars for Iran and claim to have thousands of pages of bank, email and phone records to prove it. Zarrab pleaded not guilty.

It's not surprising the involvement of Giuliani and Mukasey would raise red flags.

Giuliani, one of candidate Trump's staunchest supporters, advises the president, in an unofficial capacity, on cybersecurity. Both his and Mukasey's law firms have represented bank victims in Zarrab's case, which prosecutors say may be a conflict of interest.

Giuliani's company has also registered as a foreign agent for Turkey, a trait shared with another of Trump's advisers: Michael Flynn. The former Trump national security adviser had to register retroactively for work he performed in 2016 that could have benefited Turkey's government. At the time, Flynn was a Trump campaign adviser.

There have been no indications Flynn ever lobbied on Zarrab's case. Flynn's foreign agent filing says his intelligence firm was hired by a company owned by a Turkish businessman close to Erdogan, and conducted research into a Muslim cleric and Erdogan foe who also emerges in Zarrab's case.

There have been no indications Flynn ever lobbied on Zarrab's case. Flynn's foreign agent filing says his intelligence firm was hired by a company owned by a Turkish businessman close to Erdogan, and conducted research into a Muslim cleric and Erdogan foe who also emerges in Zarrab's case.

Trump fired Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney who launched the case against Zarrab, as part of a purge of Obama-era prosecutors. Bharara was dismissed even though Trump made a point during the presidential transition of asking him to stay.

Bharara's possible replacement: Mukasey's son, Marc Mukasey, who is frequently mentioned as a contender. That could put the younger Mukasey in charge of prosecuting the man his father has been trying to set free.

For Turkey, the saga is bigger than Zarrab's case. It has its origins in a massive 2013 corruption scandal in Turkey involving allegations of bribery, fraud and smuggling. Zarrab and Turkish state-owned bank Halkbank were at the center of the storm.

Homes linked to several top Erdogan lieutenants were raided and three sons of Turkish ministers detained. Erdogan dismissed the allegations as a conspiracy by Fetullah Gulen, the Muslim cleric who lives in Pennsylvania and leads a global movement of schools and charities.

Source: Messy Web of Ties, Some to Trump, in Turkish Mogul's Case | NBC Connecticut http://www.nbcconnecticut.com/news/politics/Messy-Web-of-Ties-Some-to-Trump-in-Turkish-Moguls-Case-417965503.html#ixzz4edUhSFlU
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Turkey's response has been forceful. Erdogan's government has argued that Atilla's prosecution is politically motivated. And at a meeting this week with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu offered another explanation: Bharara, the former Manhattan prosecutor, is loyal to Gulen.

"He retweets or likes everything that is anti-Turkey," Cavusoglu said.

Bharara says he's never been to Turkey and had to Google "Gulen" to learn who he was. But the "Gulenist" charge from Erdogan's government isn't surprising.

Aykan Erdemir, a former opposition member of Turkish parliament, said Turkey's leaders know they face risks if Zarrab's case prompts a fresh examination of corruption.

Although not proven it also raises questions as to Trumps business investments in Turkey.

As the saying goes: "where there is smoke there is fire."

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