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Turkish Gold Trader Cuts Deal With Prosecutors in Iran Sanctions Case

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Reza Zarrab, a Turkish-Iranian businessman accused of conspiracy to violate United States sanctions against Iran, has been cooperating with the American authorities, a prosecutor said on Tuesday. Credit Sebnem Coskun/Anadolu Agency — Getty Images

A Turkish-Iranian gold trader whose prosecution in Manhattan has drawn sharp criticism from Turkey’s president and the attention of senior officials in the Trump administration, has pleaded guilty and has been cooperating with the American authorities, a federal prosecutor disclosed in court on Tuesday.

Prosecutors said Reza Zarrab, the trader, was expected to testify in court either later Tuesday or on Wednesday, and they asked the judge to unseal his plea agreement.

Speculation had swirled that Mr. Zarrab, 34, who was charged with helping orchestrate a broad conspiracy to violate United States sanctions on Iran, had agreed to become a government witness after he stopped appearing at recent court hearings.

His lawyers also allowed an important deadline to pass without filing court papers that would have allowed Mr. Zarrab to challenge the admissibility of critical government evidence against him.

Mr. Zarrab’s decision to cooperate is not only a major advance for prosecutors in their investigation of the alleged sanctions-busting scheme. It could also further strain relations between the United States and Turkey, especially if Mr. Zarrab reveals evidence about corruption in Turkish government and banking circles.

The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has raised the case repeatedly with American officials, including in a telephone call with President Trump. He has depicted the prosecution as a continuation of a 2016 coup attempt against him, which he has laid to followers of the Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is living in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania.

Source: NYT > World

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