Reza Zarrab was in the news in multiple stories on Thursday. The 34-year-old is the U.S. government’s main witness in a trial of Turkish banker Mehmet Hakan Atilla. Zarrab, the rich former chum to Turkey’s president, Recep Erdogan, copped a plea, agreeing to cooperate with Manhattan federal prosecutors, against the will of Erdogan. Thursday was Zarrab’s last day of testimony in the trial, in which he accused Atilla and other high-ranking Turkish officials, including Erdogan himself, of cooperating in a plot to dodge US sanctions against Iran.
Also on Thursday, a disturbing suit was filed in Manhattan Supreme Court against Zarrab, by his former friend and cellmate Faouzi Jaber. As reported by the NY Post, Jaber, 62, alleges that Zarrab raped him multiple times while they shared a cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Manhattan. The explicit and shocking suit describes several occasions of sexual misconduct by Zarrab. Jaber claims in the suit, that the cell “became a kind of a torture chamber” for him. Jaber, who describes himself as a cancer survivor with a “dangerous heart condition,” is awaiting sentencing for trafficking drugs and guns to terrorist organization FARC. Zarrab previously befriended Jaber, helped him to pay for his defense lawyers, deposited cash in his commissary account, and sent money to his family in Africa.
Zarrab’s criminal defense lawyer Ben Brafman said, “Mr. Zarrab vigorously denies this outrageous and offensive allegation and will if necessary defend the action in court.” Jaber’s lawyer, Alexei Schacht, shot back denying that the lawsuit was politically motivated. “This has nothing to do with Turkey. I have nothing to with Turkey,” Schacht told the Post. “The timing of this is coincidental.”
In Thursday’s testimony, Zarrab claimed that he was relocated from the downtown prison system and into FBI custody following an attempt on his life, resulting from his cooperation with the feds. “There was an individual who pulled a knife on me and I was about to lose my life,” said Zarrab. “He said that he had received instructions to kill because I was cooperating,” he said, regarding his alleged attacker.
Zarrab has stated under oath that he bribed Turkey’s former economy minister, with Erdoğan’s approval, in a scheme to help Iran evade sanctions from the US and UK. Zarrab also confessed to successfully bribing US prison guards to provide him with liquor and cell phones during his detainment.
By: Ellen Cans