Faouzi Jaber, 62, an Ivory Coast native awaiting sentencing in a federal weapons and drugs case, says in his Manhattan Supreme civil suit that he was cellmates with Reza Zarrab, 34, from 2016 through this past spring.
Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab, who agreed to cooperate with prosecutors to not stand trial in the United States over a breach of now-lifted US sanctions on Iran, money laundering and other charges, was accused late Thursday by an ex-cellmate in his early 60s of sexual assault in a Manhattan prison. Only Zarrab, 34, and Atilla, 47, have been arrested by USA authorities.
Zarrab said the inmate pulled a knife out and said, "He had received instructions to kill because I was cooperating".
Overshadowed by this geopolitical intrigue, Zarrab has been called as the USA government's star witness - not against any president or politician, but against a banker: Mehmet Hakan Atilla, a former manager at the state-run Halkbank.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday that the NY trial of a Turkish banker is a USA conspiracy being staged to "blackmail" and "blemish" his country. The U.S. Bureau of Prisons did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
He told the court that he admitted to US prosecutors that he had paid bribes in Turkey, misstated his Turkish income between 2002 and 2016 and procured prostitutes for other people around 2013. The testimony came as Zarrab was cross-examined by one of Atilla's lawyers, Cathy Fleming. Zarrab said 18 or 19 individuals -some of whom he doesn't know-had their assets seized after he began testifying last week. The sexual assaults continued, until the other inmate eventually "had the courage" to complain to staff and Zarrab was moved to another unit, the complaint says. He said prosecutors told him he would not be charged for those crimes because they were outside US jurisdiction.
Zarrab was among several allies of Erdogan imprisoned there before a criminal probe mysteriously disappeared in December that year, ending what Erdogan had called a "judicial coup" against him. The other inmate said he was impressed by Zarrab's wealth and power, especially since it helped him to buy "special treatment" from inmates and guards.
"How did you get out of those charges?"
Newly released from prison, Zarrab said, he considered starting "to trade again" at Halkbank.
According to a message submitted into evidence, the attorney reported to Zarrab that "someone" said: "This job should definitely be done".
He said he also bribed him with a watch and a piano.
Zarrab said that "BB" was code for "the prime minister", and the general manager was Ali Fuat, who was then in charge of Halkbank.
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.
Cohen will continue his testimony Friday.