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Citizen of Turkey Rıza Sarraf of Iranian origin has appeared before jury in the case in which former Deputy General Director Halkbank, which is a large state-owned bank, Mehmet Hakan Atilla has been tried.
Sarraf said that he was born in Iran, has been living in Turkey since 1.5 years old, lived two years in Dubai and is a citizen of Turkey, Macedonia and Iran.
He explained that he is still in FBI custody and doesn’t stay in a hotel.
Pleading guilty and cooperation with the prosecution, Sarraf said “Cooperation was the fastest way to accept responsibility and to get out of jail at once”.
Sarraf came to the witness stand in jail clothes handcuffed at 6:40 p.m. in Turkey local time.
Former Minister of EU Bağış was mentioned
According to Reuters, Sarraf said that former Minister of the European Union (EU) Egemen Bağış helped him open an account at Aktif Bank.
Sarraf explained Bağış’s position in money transfer as follows:
Sarraf: “I tried to open an account in Aktif Bank. My initial attempt failed.”
Sarraf: “In my initial attempt, Aktif Bank told me that the customers who will do business with Iran need to have a special permission to open an account”.
Sarraf: “Aktif Bank was working directly with Iran. They disintermediated me”.
Prosecutor: “Was the major part of your income coming from Aktif Bank?”
Sarraf added that then-Minister of EU Egemen Bağış helped with arranging this meeting.
Former Minister of Economy Çağlayan was mentioned
Then-Minister of Economy Zafer Çağlayan was also mentioned in the case.
Sarraf said that he asked for Zafer Çağlayan’s help when he had troubles with the banks.
Stating that Halkbank General Director Süleyman Aslan didn’t want to work with him in gold trade, Sarraf said that he then went to then-Minister of Economy Zafer Çağlayan.
Question: “Why did you go to Zafer Çağlayan after Aslan turned you down?”
Answer: “Because he was the minister of economy of Turkey”.
“I paid Çağlayan 45-50 million Euros in bribe”
Sarraf explained the relation with Çağlayan after he sought his help and said that he bribed Zafer Çağlayan to be able to work with Halkbank.
“I believe I paid Çağlayan 45-50 million Euros in bribe”.
Sarraf noted that this figure is just the one paid in euros and doesn’t involve the other payments he made to Çağlayan.
He also added that Çağlayan wanted to have half of the share of profits in trade with Iran.
Question: In what valuables did Çağlayan receive this paymen?
Answer: In cash, valuable articles and banks transfer.
Question: Was this payment made to Çağlayan’s family as well?
Bank receipt of the payment made to Çağlayan
The prosecutor wanted to present the bank receipt of 2.4 million TL (520 thousand Euros) allegedly paid to Çağlayan’s brother as his share of the profit made through the trade with Iran. Judge Berman allowed the document to be presented despite the defense’s objection.
The document was then included in the case file.
He explained the system by drawing a diagram
After the recess, Sarraf explained how the gold trade works by drawing diagrams.
Daily Beast correspondent Katie Zavadski explained Sarraf’s testimony as follows:
“The transaction would primarily begin with Iran selling crude oil and gas to Turkey.
The National Iran Oil Company (NIOC) would make the sale of oil to TÜPRAŞ (Turkish Petroleum Refineries Corporation), and gas to BOTAŞ (Petroleum Pipeline Cooperation). They would owe money to NIOC.
“TÜPRAŞ, BOTAŞ, and NIOC have accounts at Halkbank.
“By moving this money around within Halkbank, we’re getting this close to a point where it could leave Halkbank. In fact, one of the methods that was designed is this, bc NIOC would not be able to do this directly.
“These couriers would physically transport the gold to Dubai. But from the customs document that’s made in Turkey, the document would show the final destination is Iran, transiting through Dubai.
“The gold would never go to Iran.
“Now we would be at a point where this gold would be sold, and would be converted back into cash.
“Halkbank chief told him for a while Turkish regulations said they had to put Iran as final gold destination”, Pointing finger at Atilla.
“This whole scheme is designed to get Iranian money that’s stuck in Halkbank out into the general sphere, so it can be used to pay off debts around the world.
The trial will continue with Sarraf’s testimony today (November 30).
|Trial of Rıza Sarraf
Rıza Sarraf was arrested on December 21 within the scope of December 17-25 corruption and bribery investigation. He was released after 70 days of imprisonment.
Iranian businessperson Babek Zencani, pointed as Sarraf’s partner in Iran was sentenced to capital punishment on charge of corruption on March 6, 2016.
Zencani has companies in Turkey too. Kont Group Cosmetics in Beşiktaş district of İstanbul is one of them. Zencani is also allegedly linked with Onur Air. Zencani’s attorneys in the past few days had stated in the lawsuit they brought in İstanbul that Onur Air belongs to them.
Zencani is associated with Rıza Sarraf frequently during this period. In the report prepared by inspectors of the Ministry of Customs and Trade, a relation between the two has been mentioned.
Sarraf had been taken into custody in Miami city airport while trying to enter the United States and arrested on March 22.
On his first hearing on April 27, Sarraf facing up to 95 years of imprisonment denied the accusations of conspiring to evade US sanctions against Iran, money laundering and bank fraud.
On October 26, Sarraf pleaded guilty and it was announced by the state attorney’s office on November 28.