Graft probe suspect sues MHP leader over ‘charlatan’ remark

ISTANBUL (CIHAN)- Reza Zarrab, an Iranian businessman who is among the main suspects in a year-long graft investigation that was made public on Dec. 17, 2013, has filed charges against Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli for calling him a charlatan.

Zarrab, who was detained on Dec. 17 as part of the corruption investigation and subsequently released pending trial, accused Bahçeli of defamation of character over a March 27 election speech in which the MHP leader called him a charlatan. The controversial businessman is demanding TL 100,000 for emotional damages, according to his lawyer, Ieyda YIldIrIm.

Zarrab had earlier filed a defamation suit against Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal KIlIçdaroIlu on Feb. 6 over the CHP leader’s remarks about the businessman’s alleged activities.

In his March 27 speech, Bahçeli said, referring to Zarrab: “So a charlatan came from Iran. This charlatan from Iran got four ministers’ children involved and got the ministers accustomed to bribes. He keeps robbing Turkey. This charlatan trying to lift the embargo against Iran is constantly trying to get ministers to do things. He was released after 43 days. Why has Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip] ErdoIan panicked so much over this charlatan? He [Zarrab] probably said, ‘You either get me out of this or I will bring you all down with me using what I know’.”

According to phone recordings leaked on social media prior to the March 30 elections, Zarrab brokered illegal transactions between Iran and Turkey. The recordings indicate that he helped facilitate the sale of gold to Iran and was part of a money-laundering scheme to integrate Iranian money into the international system.

Allegedly, Zarrab often features in the voice recordings related to the Dec. 17 investigation. If the recordings are authentic, former Economy Minister Zafer ÇaIlayan accepted a watch worth 300,000 Swiss francs (TL 700,000) as a bribe from Zarrab. Conversations in several recordings allegedly featuring the voices of Zarrab and a bureaucrat working for ÇaIlayan suggest that the minister specifically asked Zarrab to buy a Patek Philippe 5101G watch that he had seen and admired during one of his visits to Geneva. Zarrab allegedly sent one of his employees to Geneva to buy the watch on Sept. 25, 2013.

Another leaked conversation, purportedly between Zarrab and former Interior Minister Muammer Guler, suggests that the two men were in “close cooperation” to grant Turkish citizenship to several of Zarrab’s family members. The two are also said to have discussed how to “get rid of” a police officer who had “made things difficult” for some of Zarrab’s projects. When the voice attributed to Zarrab complained about a police officer named Orhan, saying he had gotten in the way of his activities, the voice attributed to the former minister used profanity to refer to the police officer. “No worries, I will make that man pay for what he has done. Don’t worry,” the voice attributed to Guler says.

Another recording suggests that Zarrab sent 500,000 euros in bribes to former EU Affairs Minister Egemen BaIII. The audio recordings, purportedly of Zarrab, his men and BaIII, indicate that the Iranian businessman had greased the minister’s palm, cloaking it as a holiday present. The voice attributed to Zarrab also implies he had sent BaIII the same amount of money twice before.

ErdoIan has been defiant in the face of the graft investigation. His government ordered a ban on Twitter, where most of the leaked recordings were shared. He also responded to the allegations against Zarrab by praising the businessman. “Zarrab exports gold and I know he is involved in charity activities as well,” ErdoIan said in remarks on Dec. 25. ErdoIan has said the graft investigation is a plot to bring down his government and has vowed to eradicate those behind it.

(CihanToday’s Zaman) C