Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has called on the ruling Justice and Development (AKP) to set up a parliamentary committee to investigate the case of Turkish-Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab, who is currently a witness in a New York court case on evading sanctions on Iran.
“I am making a candid and open call: Let’s re-open the file and set up an investigation commission at parliament. Let’s not leave the case to the U.S. judiciary and instead clean up our own mess,” Kılıçdaroğlu said on Dec. 5.
“The fact that a Turkish case is being conducted in the United States is disturbing my conscience. It is not right that the case is being tried in the U.S.,” he added.
Zarrab has become a key witness in a key case in New York, in which a former executive of Turkish state lender Halkbank, Hakan Atilla, is accused of violating sanctions on Iran.
Zarrab was a suspect in this case before he pleaded guilty of violating U.S. sanctions on Iran, bribing Turkish officials, executing a scheme or artifice to defraud a financial institution, and committing bank fraud. He testified in court, admitting that he bribed former Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan and was involved in the multi-billion-dollar gold-for-oil scheme.
Zarrab was the prime suspect in a case in Turkey in December 2013, when AKP officials names were also embroiled in corruption and bribery accusations.
The AKP accused members of the network linked to U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen of plotting against the government in that case. The charges were dismissed while investigating prosecutors and judges in the case were removed from their posts and a huge crackdown on the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ) was launched.
The opposition’s effort to form a parliamentary investigation into the names involved in the December 2013 corruption cases was denied by a majority of AKP votes.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has repeatedly said that the AKP regards the New York case against Atilla as an extension of FETÖ’s efforts in the U.S.
Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli on Nov. 28 also echoed the AKP’s stance, urging the Zarrab case to be brought in Turkey and saying that “if there is a crime committed in Turkey, the Turkish authorities should be the address.”
‘AKP ministers provided Zarrab sensitive information’
On Dec. 1, the Istanbul Prosecutor’s Office ruled for the seizure of the assets of Zarrab and his acquaintances, on suspicion that Zarrab procured sensitive information with the aim of conducting political and military espionage. CHP head Kılıçdaroğlu also urged AKP government to mobilize parliament to investigate further.
“Since the Istanbul Prosecutor’s Office has filed for investigation, let’s mobilize parliament and clean this smear. Let’s show that there is democracy and justice in Turkey, and that those who give bribes and accept bribes are being tried and prosecuted here,” Kılıçdaroğlu said.
“Who has provided such sensitive information to Zarrab? All of it was provided by your ministers and by your government. Your government has betrayed the Republic of Turkey. It has given all state secrets to Zarrab in exchange for money,” he added, accusing Erdoğan of “covering up” the initial investigation on Zarrab and his relations with former AKP ministers and politicians.
In April 2013 the National Intelligence Agency (MİT) provided then-Prime Minister Erdoğan with a note detailing the criminal activities of Zarrab and his alleged relations with AKP officials, Kılıçdaroğlu claimed.
“It was served to you through a note from the most sensitive institution of this state that this scammer was conducting fraud. And what did you do? You covered up the file and ignored the fraud,” he added.
The CHP leader had made a statement about the MİT note back in 2014, after which Zarrab filed a criminal complaint against him for non-pecuniary damage over his accusations.
The MİT, meanwhile, denied the CHP’s allegations with a statement provided to court on Jan. 16, 2015.
“As a result of an investigation made by our records, a report including statements that Zarrab committed these crime was not submitted to the Prime Ministry,” the MİT stated at the time.