Is Turkey Turning Into a Mafia State?
The Case of Reza Zarrab and the Rise in Organized Crime
By Ryan Gingeras
Earlier this week, the trial for the Turkish-Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab began in lower Manhattan. Zarrab, who has close ties to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, allegedly ran an elaborate gold-for-oil scheme to circumvent international sanctions against Iran, possibly with the assistance of relatives and allies of Turkish government ministers. (U.S. officials had arrested Zarrab in March 2016 while he was vacationing in Miami, Florida.) Soon after the proceedings began, however, the charges were dropped, and on Wednesday, Zarrab took the witness stand instead, making damning claims that he had bribed an economy minister as part of his sanctions-skirting racket. The whole affair, which could implicate Erdogan, has put the Turkish leader on edge, and he has lashed out against the United States, criticizing it for falling prey to an elaborate conspiracy to bring down the Turkish regime. The real culprit driving the probe, he has insisted, is Fethullah Gulen, the spiritual leader of the prominent Hizmet (or “Gulenist”) movement who lives in exile in Pennsylvania and who Erdogan claims orchestrated the July 2016 coup against him.
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