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Former Money-Laundering Suspect Zarrab Spotted at High-end New York Restaurant

Iranian-Turkish gold trader Reza Zarrab, who was the key suspect in a U.S. trial on charges of evading sanctions against Iran, money-laundering and bank fraud, is claimed to have been spotted at Nobu, a famous sushi restaurant chain in Manhattan, New York.

A picture taken by another customer at the restaurant, published by Hurriyet, shows a man resembling Zarrab, sitting next to a woman, with a glass of white wine in front of him, as he is looking at his cell phone.

Zarrab reportedly left the restaurant after he heard other customers speaking Turkish, along with two bodyguards.

Hurriyet’s New York representative Razi Canikligil tweeted that the New York chief prosecutor’s office said they cannot confirm the authenticity of the photograph and will not comment on it.

After cooperating with the U.S. authorities to get a reduced sentence and taking the witness stand in the trial against the former head of a Turkish state-run bank in November 2017, Zarrab was thought to be still in detention or going through a “witness protection program”.

Zarrab was originally facing up to 70 years in prison on six charges including evading U.S. sanctions against Iran, conspiracy, bank fraud and money laundering. He reportedly pleaded guilty to all of them. He also admitted to have paid 45,000 dollars in bribes to a prison guard in order to smuggle booze and mobile phones into his cell while in a U.S. detention center.

With Zarrab turning into the U.S.’s “star witness”, Hakan Atilla, the deputy chief executive officer of Turkey’s state-run Halk Bankasi, became the prime suspect in the case for allegedly “conspiring with Zarrab, as part of a scheme to help Iran evade U.S. sanctions”. Atilla was sentenced to 32 months in prison in the New York trial in May 2018.

Zarrab was initially arrested in Turkey in 2013, as part of a corruption investigation, where he was accused of bribing four Turkish cabinet ministers. Dozens of others, including prominent figures and the sons of three ministers, had been detained by the Turkish police in the same probe, which was dubbed the “December 17-25 corruption and bribery investigation”. Zarrab and others were released, after the Turkish government dismissed the investigation as “a coup attempt” and replaced the prosecutors behind it.

U.S. police arrested Zarrab at a Miami airport on March 19, 2016. An investigation had been launched against him in September 2014.

The Iranian billionaire later said during his U.S. trial that he paid bribes to secure his release from jail in Turkey. He also admitted in the trial to paying Turkey’s former Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan between 45 and 50 million euros in bribes in 2012 and 2013 in relation to offering help to Iran against Washington sanctions.


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