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Complex Illicit Finance Scheme Between Turkey and Gold Involved Gold and Gas

Online website ZeroHedge first reported on ‘odd’ exports of gold to Iran from Turkey all the way back in May 2012. Turkey’s trade balance fluctuated wildly as gold stocks flowed out of the country. 

“Turkey’s going to continue it,” the Turkish economy minister said. “If those casting aspersions on the gold trade are searching for immorality, they should take a look in the mirror.”

ZeroHedge then reported in 2017 on Turkey’s “200 tons of secret gold” trade with Iran. It highlighted a network including Turkey, China, Dubai, and Iran which used to skirt U.S. sanctions. One observer called it,  “one of the most complex illicit finance schemes [prosecutors] have seen.”

The man who hatched the scheme, Reza Zarrab, had ties to Turkey’s president. He was arrested while on vacation in the U.S..

“Zarrab is thought to have been close to the Erdogan family and, indeed, he was given Turkish citizenship, alongside Iranian. This is a real stress point.”

Zarrab, who pleaded guilty in October 2017, ratted on Mehmet Hakan Atila, a director at Turkey’s Halkbank, who was then convicted on Jan 3, 2018. 

A new leak of more than a million documents demonstrates how Iran’s national oil company and its subsidiaries seek out tax havens in order to avoid U.S.-led sanctions.

Reza Zarrab, who was arrested at the Miami International Airport, was charged for conspiring to evade U.S. sanctions through an elaborate gold-for-gas scheme between Turkey and Iran. Prosecutors contended that he Zarrab and co-defendant Mehmet Hakan Atila helped Iran skirt U.S. sanctions by trading Turkish gold for oil and natural gas. Using companies all over the world, they facilitated $20 billion worth of transactions. 

“High-ranking government officials in Iran and Turkey participated in and protected this scheme,” read the Justice Department in Oct. 15, 2019. Statement. 

“Some officials received bribes worth tens of millions of dollars paid from the proceeds of the scheme … and to help shield the scheme from the scrutiny of U.S. regulators.”

Zarrab, who is married to a Turkish pop star, said he had received approval for the operation from Turkish President Recep Erdogan. 

Zarrab, who was briefly represented by Rudolph Giuliani, was the focus of Special Counsel Robert Mueller III’s prosecution of Trump adviser Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn for having lied under oath to the FBI. 

“Just like we’ve seen in the Halkbank scandal, entities are eager to exploit the secrecy afforded by anonymous shell companies to evade U.S. sanctions on Iran, undermining our national security,” the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, Oregon’s Ron Wyden, said in a statement on the Formations House leak. “Ending anonymous shell companies would make it easier for law enforcement to ‘follow the money’ when investigating complex financial crimes like sanctions evasion.”