U.S. judge for Zarrab, Atilla case asks lawyers to reveal Turkish contacts
U.S. District Judge Richard Berman ordered the lawyers of Turkish-Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab and Turkish state lander Halkbank’s former manager Hakan Atilla to disclose all contacts with U.S. and Turkish officials.
Judge Berman asked both men’s lawyers to disclose purpose and outcome of contacts with officials “relating to the prosecution and/or disposition,” The New York Times reporter Benjamin Weiser said.
The order appears to cover former mayor of New York, Rudolph Giuliani’s efforts to negotiate a diplomatic resolution for Zarrab, including meetings with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and senior administration officials of U.S. President Donald Trump, Weiser wrote.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has lobbied both U.S. President Barack Obama and the current administration for Zarrab’s release since his arrest in March 2016.
Giuliani, who took part in U.S. President Donald Trump’s election campaign, and Michael Mukasey, the former attorney general for President George W. Bush’s administration visited Erdoğan in February 2017 to negotiate a diplomatic deal for Zarrab’s release in return of Turkey’s aid to U.S. interests in the Middle East, The New York Times had reported at the time.
The visit was disclosed in court documents as an “agreement between the United States and Turkey that will promote the national security interests of the United States.”
While Giuliani was in Trump’s administration team as cybersecurity adviser, was also representing Zarrab against the U.S. Government. Since Giuliani is known to be a close associate and adviser of President Trump, and Zarrab is known to have had close ties with President Erdoğan and his political allies, the possibility of a negotiated “settlement” inevitably raised suspicions. As retired American lawyer Kevin Snapp asked, "was Zarrab hoping to use his wealth and Erdoğan’s political leverage to avoid American justice?"
Giuliani and Mukasey, as lawyers for Zarrab, were proposing to go over the heads of both the chief prosecutor and trial judge and negotiate between the U.S. and Turkey.