A prosecutor on Monday said the wealthy Turkish gold trader Rudy Giuliani is trying to free through a diplomatic deal once offered his services breaking America’s Iran sanctions directly to former hard-line Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a letter.
Giuliani’s efforts to free Reza Zarrab have raised questions of conflict of interest and possible use of Trump administration ties to circumvent the courts for a well-connected defendant. Prosecutor Michael Lockard told U.S. District Judge Richard Berman that in a recent affidavit Giuliani sugarcoated his client’s actions.
“What is charged in this case is a serious national security offense,” Lockard told Berman. “It’s alleged that the defendant led a multiyear conspiracy to allow the government of Iran and Iranian entities access to the U.S. financial system.”
Berman is looking into whether Giuliani and former Republican attorney general Michael Mukasey, whose law firms also represent banks that Zarrab allegedly deceived in his scheme to evade U.S. sanctions, have conflicts of interest in representing Zarrab.
Former mayor Giuliani, in an affidavit last week, said the deal he is trying to broker between Turkey’s president and administration officials would be in the U.S. “national security” interest and noted that Zarrab’s alleged scheme involved only commercial goods — not weapons or nuclear parts.
But Lockard said Giuliani was trying to “muddy the waters” on behalf of Zarrab, whose cause has been supported by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The prosecutor said Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and Iranian banks that financed nuclear programs benefited, as well as airlines sanctioned for supporting Hezbollah.
“Mr. Zarrab offered these services to Iran in a letter personally addressed to then Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and …Mr. Zarrab funneled tens of millions of dollars to high-level government and bank officials to facilitate and protect this scheme,” Lockard alleged.
Giuliani had disclosed his diplomatic efforts to former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara before he was fired, and suggested in his affidavit that they were supposed to be “confidential” but were disclosed by prosecutors in an effort to protect turf and “subvert” private diplomacy that might lead to Turkey giving benefits to the U.S.
Lockard told Berman that wasn’t true.
“That was not a confidential conversation,” he said. “Confidentiality was not requested or promised.”
Zarrab’s lawyer, Ben Brafman, declined to respond to Lockard’s claims, and Giuliani did not return a phone message. Berman has scheduled a hearing on Giuliani’s and Mukasey’s role for May 2.