Erdogan Says US Trying To 'Blackmail' Turkey With Iran Sanctions Case

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Turkey has seized a private jet and a luxury yacht owned by Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab as part of the government's latest response to the businessman's guilty plea in a USA trial that implicated President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's close circle. Zarrab testified that Atilla, who worked at the state-run HalkBank, never asked Zarrab for kickbacks and Zarrab never paid him bribes.

Zarrab said he paid Turkey's former Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan between €45 million and €50 million (more than $50 million) in bribes in 2012 and 2013 in order to secure his help in evading U.S. sanctions on Iran. Zarrab said 18 or 19 individuals -some of whom he doesn't know-had their assets seized after he began testifying last week.

Zarrab hired a private lawyer for Jaber and in September 2016 put money in Jaber's commissary account, the suit says. In November, Zarrab raped Jaber, who "felt helpless to fight off the younger and stronger defendant", it said. Under questioning by Fleming, Zarrab said he attended meetings with Atilla a "handful" of times during that period. Zarrab said he sometimes complained about Atilla to Aslan.

Acting US Attorney Joon H. Kim has called claims the prosecution is driven by Turkish politics "ridiculous on their face".

Atilla's defense team has said he is "not corrupt".

Reuters was not immediately able to reach Aslan for comment.

Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab described criminal activities he was forced to divulge after he pleaded guilty to seven charges in October and became a government cooperator.

Zarrab testified on Tuesday that in return for his guilty plea prosecutors said he would not be charged with lying to law enforcement officers after his arrest and smoking synthetic marijuana in jail.

US prosecutors have charged nine people in the case with conspiring to help Iran evade sanctions.

The accusations have surfaced as Zarrab testifies before a federal court in Manhattan on his role in a lucrative regional trade circuit, that saw Iran inject billions of euros of hydrocarbon revenues into the worldwide banking sector via Turkey's public banking institution - circumventing United States sanctions prohibiting trade with Teheran.

Turkish-Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab, who agreed to cooperate with USA prosecutors in the trial of Mehmet Hakan Atilla, an executive at Turkey's Halkbank, has been accused of raping his cellmate in a Manhattan prison. Erdogan on Sunday dismissed the case as a politically motivated attack on Turkey. On Thursday CNN Turk said Erdogan had said Turkey did not violate US sanctions.

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