Ex-money-laundering Suspect Zarrab Reportedly Seen at New York Four Seasons
Iranian-Turkish gold trader Reza Zarrab, who was on a high-profile U.S. trial for allegedly helping Iran evade economic sanctions through Turkey, bank fraud and money-laundering, was spotted in New York city as he was leaving a downtown hotel on Friday, the Hurriyet daily reported.
Four Seasons New York Downtown Hotel, which Zarrab is claimed to be staying, is reportedly across from the sushi restaurant Nobu, where he was photographed last week dining with a woman.
According to Hurriyet, Zarrab, who checked in to the hotel under an alias, refused to answer reporter Razi Canikligil‘s questions and rushed back into the hotel. He walked out two hours later and left in a Cadillac Escalade.
Hurriyet points out that the billionaire was “only escorted by his driver, but not a bodyguard or a law-enforcement officer”, adding that American lawyers following the case closely say Zarrab cannot legally be roaming free and should be accompanied by FBI agents.
Zarrab was originally facing up to 70 years for allegedly evading U.S. sanctions against Iran through a Turkish state-run bank, along with money-laundering and bank fraud. In November 2017, he reportedly decided to cooperate with the U.S. government in order to reduce his sentence, confessing his acts and becoming a witness in the trial.
His cooperation left Hakan Atilla, the former head of Turkish state-run Halk Bankasi, as the primary defendant in the New York trial. Atilla was sentenced to 32 months in May 2018 for allegedly conspiring with Zarrab, as part of a scheme to help Iran evade Washington’s sanctions.
Zarrab was thought to be still in detention or going through a “witness protection program”.
The Iranian mogul was first arrested in Turkey in 2013 on charges of bribing four Cabinet ministers, as part of a massive corruption investigation. However he was released shortly after his arrest and the prosecutors behind the investigation were discharged by the government.
U.S. police arrested Zarrab at a Miami airport on March 19, 2016. An investigation had been launched against him in September 2014.
Zarrab 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.