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Iran: Hassan Rouhani set Zarrab’s assets as precondition for Turkey-Iran gas deal

Source: Cihan/Today’s Zaman
Iran has recently sent officials to Turkey to reclaim all the assets in Turkey of Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab, who is currently under arrest pending trial as part of an ongoing corruption investigation, the Yurt daily reported on Tuesday.

According to Yurt, Iranian officials have demanded assistance from Turkish officials for the transfer of the assets of Zarrab and his partners to Iran.

The report claims that Babak Zanjani, an Iranian businessman and alleged partner of Zarrab, was managing $14 billion in assets in various forms inside Turkey. Zanjani was detained in Tehran by Iranian officials in December 2013.

The report also notes that Iranian officials in Turkey have collected detailed information about the activities of Zanjani and Kamelia Jamshidi while they were in country before fleeing to Iran on the eve of news announcing the corruption operation in December. Jamshidi was working for Zanjani as a supervisor of Zarrab’s financial traffic in Turkey.

On Dec. 17 of last year, İstanbul and Ankara police staged dawn raids to detain more than 50 people as part of a corruption investigation. The sons of former ministers Muammer Güler and Zafer Çağlayan, as well as Zarrab and over 20 other suspects, have since been arrested.

The suspects stand accused of rigging state tenders, accepting and facilitating bribes for major urbanization projects, obtaining construction permits for protected areas in exchange for money, helping foreigners obtain Turkish citizenship with falsified documents and involvement in export fraud, forgery and gold smuggling.

Zarrab’s assets were precondition for Turkey-Iran gas deal

According to Yurt, Iran agreed to sign a new natural gas agreement when Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan promised to lift a freeze on Zarrab’s assets in Turkey.

Erdoğan noted in Iran that Turkey imports oil and gas from Iran and that the volume of these imports would increase in the future.

After two years’ absence, Erdoğan visited Tehran on Jan. 29, the same day the decision to freeze Zarrab’s assets was lifted by the court after the lead prosecutor in the case was reassigned.

According to the daily, Erdoğan had to call Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ and revoke the assets freeze because Iranian President Hassan Rohani was unwilling to sign a gas deal without receiving Zarrab’s assets.

During a meeting with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Erdoğan reportedly said: “We are aware that all the assets of Zarrab belong to you. Turkey has provided the necessary support for Iran to overcome the international embargo. I am ready for cooperation.”

Following Erdoğan’s promise, Iran and Turkey signed a natural gas deal that includes articles concerning Iranian assets in Turkey.

When asked, a spokesman for the Iranian Embassy in Ankara said on Tuesday that the embassy has no information on the issue yet.