Former deputy PM Arınç says Zarrab bribed ministers

Turkey’s former Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç said Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab gave bribes to Turkish ministers for the trade with Iran, but the government itself did not violate the U.S. sanctions.

Interviewed at a local TV station in the western province of Manisa, where he was elected, Arınç was quoted by secularist newspaper Cumhuriyet as saying:

Zarrab started distributing lots of money to those who he thought would help with his gold business through Halkbank. This was reported in the leaked wiretaps of the Dec. 17-25, 2013 police investigation. I don’t know who received what. But I know that our government, as an institution, did only what was defined by law, in accordance with international finance regulations.

If there was misconduct, Halkbank may receive a fine, but punishing the Turkish government would not be fair, Arınç said.

After the Turkish graft probe was closed, Zarrab was interviewed in pro-government news channels saying how his gold trade helped reduce Turkey’s trade deficit. He also received Turkey’s top exporter award in June 2015.

“I wouldn’t allow it,” Arınç said of the two former ministers at the time, his predecessor Numan Kurtulmuş and the Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekçi, who handed Zarrab the award.

Arınç was still the deputy prime minister at the time and left politics in November 2015.