A Turkish Banker's Arrest Puts Spotlight on Erdogan's Circle at Awkward Time

Reza Zarrab the Turkish Iranian gold trader accused of violating US sanctions on Iran seen at an Istanbul police station in 2013

Prosecutors accused the Iranian-born Zarrab and two others of engaging in hundreds of millions of dollars of transactions for Iran's government and Iranian entities from 2010 to 2015, in a scheme to evade US sanctions.

US prosecutors on Match 28 charged an executive at a Turkish state-owned bank with participating in a multi-year scheme to violate USA sanctions against Iran, escalating a case that has added to tensions between the United States and Turkey.

Shares of Turkish state lender Halkbank were heading on Wednesday for their biggest one-day fall after USA prosecutors charged a senior executive with participating in a multi-year scheme to violate sanctions against Iran.

Federal Bureau of Investigation agents have arrested a Turkish banker for conspiring to evade USA sanctions against Iran and other offenses. A senior official at a state-owned Turkish bank has been detained in the United States on charges of helping Iran violate U.S. sanctions against the country, the bank said today.

Prosecutors have said he "allegedly tricked numerous US financial institutions into processing barred transactions".

Zarrab, 33, a key figure in a 2013 scandal in Turkey seen as an ally of Turkish leader Recep Erdogan, has been in prison since he was charged in the United States previous year.

The defendant is charged with conspiracies to commit bank fraud, which carries a maximum 30-year prison term, and violate USA sanctions, which carries a maximum 20-year term.

Prosecutors said law firms employing Giuliani and Mukasey have represented bank victims in the case.

The lira weakened more than 1 percent late on Tuesday after the news, while the Istanbul bourse's index of bank stocks fell more than 2 percent on Wednesday.

The Turkish prosecutors who originally opened the case against Zarrab were later removed and in 2014 the case was dropped, with judicial authorities saying the evidence had not been collected appropriately.

Zarrab, 33, was arrested in Miami in March last year en route to Disney World on charges that could see him sentenced to up to 30 years in prison.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is scheduled to make a one-day visit to Ankara this week, where talks with Erdogan will focus on Syria, senior US officials said on Monday.

Zarrab has hired nearly 20 of New York's elite white-collar criminal defense lawyers to represent him - including former New York Mayor and U.S. Attorney Rudy Giuliani, and Michael B. Mukasey, the former U.S. attorney general. They also say Giuliani and Mukasey are involved in efforts to resolve the charges.

The U.S. attorney's office is advising the judge of the Zarrab's case of potential conflicts of interest, the report said.

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