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Why The Trump Team May Be Worried About A Billion-Dollar Money Laundering Case

Aykan Erdemir
6th December 2017 - Quoted by Bill Powell - Newsweek

It was supposed to be an ordinary family vacation, but it turned into something with grave global implications—and it wasn’t very relaxing.

In the spring of 2016, Reza Zarrab—a wealthy, 34-year-old gold trader—boarded a plane from Istanbul to Miami. He and his wife, the glamorous Turkish pop star Ebru Gündes, told friends they were taking their daughter to Disney World.

But Zarrab never made it to Cinderella’s Castle. When the Iran-born Turkish businessman deplaned in Florida, the FBI arrested him for running an elaborate scheme with one of America’s main adversaries. Over nearly six years, Zarrab had smuggled up to $1 billion of gold into Iran in exchange for cash, violating sanctions against Tehran, which the U.S. put in place in response to the country’s nuclear program. Zarrab had also arranged to sell Iranian oil and gas (another sanctions violation) using phony invoices to legitimize the deals under a legal U.N. oil for food program.


To further pressure Trump, Erdogan began engaging in what Aykan Erdemir, a former Turkish lawmaker, calls “hostage diplomacy.” After the failed coup last year, the Turkish government detained—and still holds—American missionary Andrew Brunson, who’s accused of working on Gülen’s behalf during the uprising. Then, earlier this fall, the country arrested two Turks working in the U.S. Embassy in Ankara on charges of aiding the 2016 coup attempt. Erdogan had already arrested a dozen U.S. citizens—including a NASA scientist and a Christian missionary—on similar charges. And the Turkish leader wanted to trade them for Gülen and Zarrab, Turkish lawmakers and U.S. diplomats say.


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iran, turkey