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Digital Subscriptions > Newsweek International > 15 December 2017 > CLUSTER PLUCK

CLUSTER PLUCK

A billion-dollar corruption trial in New York could imperil the Turkish government— and members of the Trump team
COLD TURKEY Erdogan, center left, meets with Trump in New York. Publicly, the White House has pretended its relationship with Turkey is fine. Privately, administration officials admit it’s strained, in part because of the Zarrab trial.

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. program.

In late November, the gold trader went on trial in the Southern District of New York—as a witness for the prosecution. Days before, he had made a deal with the U.S. government: In return for a reduced sentence, he pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against another defendant in the sanctionsbusting scheme—the deputy CEO of a large, politically connected state-owned bank.

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About Newsweek International

IN GUNS WE TRUST This week, in order to understand America’s obsession with guns, we've come to proud and defiant Texas. Texas is an American state, like Texas as a republic before that and Texas as a Mexican state before that, survived only because armed civilians did what their government could not do — keep them safe, keep them alive. Without guns, there would be no Texas.
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