Jan 02 2018

A new sanctions-related case might be on the way, this time from Iran, columnist says

An Iranian court overturned the death sentence for a businessman accused of embezzlement, and this indicates new troubles for Turkey, a Turkish columnist says.

Babak Zanjani, the alleged Iranian partner of gold-trader Reza Zarrab in a scheme to evade U.S. sanctions against Iran, was tried and sentenced to death in 2016.

Now the Iranian state-run Mehr news agency reports that Zanjani came back from the death row, and this is a sign that he could be cooperating with the prosecutors, Güntay Şimşek, a columnist for the mainstream newspaper Habertürk wrote.

Zanjani was accused of embezzling $2.8 billion of Iran’s oil sales while Iran was under an international sanctions regime that restricted the use of its oil revenue to food and medical goods only.

Iran-born Turkish businessmen Zarrab has recently testified in a U.S. court of how he received help from Turkish government ministers and state banks to convert Iran’s oil revenue to fictitious gold and food trade until a police investigation revealed the graft scandal in December 2013.

Zanjani was arrested based on the evidence of the Turkish investigation. While Zarrab was cleared in Turkey after the government intervened with the prosecution, Zanjani was tried and sentence to death on March 6, 2016 for embezzlement and “spreading corruption on earth.”

The execution of Zanjani’s sentence was delayed, because the Iranian intelligence services were investigating his properties outside of Iran, Mehr has previous reported.

Şimşek said the overturn of the death sentence was used as a threat by the prosecutors to force Zanjani into cooperation.

The money he is accused of embezzling includes the trade with Turkish companies, Şimşek wrote.

“That means the Iranian government will take new steps for the return of its money, and Zanjani will be on the agenda with his business connections, including with Turkey.”