Three employees of Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab were detained as part of the Turkish government’s latest response to the businessman’s guilty plea in a US trial that implicated President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s close circle.
Zarrab’s employees Sinem Arslan, Regaip Akol and Mustafa Hacısalihoğlu were rounded up at Istanbul Public Prosecutor’s Office, Hurriyet daily newspaper said early Monday.
Among the accusations raised against the trio are “partly or fully destroying the documents related to the security of the state and its domestic and foreign interests; destroying or forging them; or using them in unrelated areas; illegally obtaining or stealing them,” Hurriyet said.
Police seized the documents they found at the suspects’ home.
According to a letter police seized from Arslan, Zarrab looked for ways to obtain residence permit in Dubai “if I cooperate with the prosecutors in the US.”
“Sinem, please meet up with the lawyer Abdurrahman Al Sharif in Dubai. … [Ask him] whether I might be able to move to Dubai after I cooperate with the prosecutors in the US and serve my sentence. [Ask him] if he can solve the residency issue when I am directly deported from the US to Dubai,” Zarrab reportedly told one of his Istanbul employees, Sinem Arslan.
Arrested in Miami in March 2016 on charges of evading US sanctions on Iran, Zarrab, 34, has pleaded guilty of the charges and agreed to cooperate with the prosecutor in bid to reduce or, if possible, avoid punishment.
Zarrab and eight other people, including Turkey’s former economy minister Zafer Caglayan and three Halkbank executives, have been charged with engaging in transactions worth hundreds of millions of dollars for Iran’s government and Iranian entities from 2010 to 2015 in a scheme to evade US sanctions.
Zarrab was the prime suspect in a major corruption investigation in Turkey that became public in December 2013 in which with others from the inner circle of the ruling AK Party government and then-Prime Minister Erdoğan for having paid Cabinet-level officials and bank officers bribes to facilitate transactions benefiting Iran.
Last week, an Istanbul prosecutor ordered the seizure of Zarrab’s assets and his relatives’ for leaking state information.