Turkey is tightening the screws on a gold trader who cut a deal with U.S. prosecutors in a case over violations of American sanctions against Iran.
The state-run news agency reported Tuesday that Turkish prosecutors have detained 17 associates of the trader, Reza Zarrab. This follows a move to seize the assets of the prosecution's star witness in the case, who is fabulously wealthy and married to a famous Turkish singer.
Zarrab is set to take the stand Tuesday for the fourth day in federal court in Manhattan, where Turkish banking executive Hakan Atilla is on trial for allegedly helping to secretly move billions of dollars in Iranian oil and gas money through U.S. banks.
During last week's testimony, Zarrab implicated Turkish President Recep Erdogan in the scheme; Erdogan has denied breaking any laws and claims the trial is being used by the U.S. to weaken Turkey.
Atilla's defense lawyers will get to cross-examine Zarrab on Tuesday and are expected to mount a fierce attack on his credibility. In a letter to the judge Monday, they revealed that a summary of phone calls Zarrab made from jail quote him as suggesting he would lie to get a cooperation agreement.
"In America, in order to make it out of prison you need to admit to something you haven't committed," Zarrab said, according to Atilla's lawyers.
Zarrab's defense attorney, Ben Brafman, declined to comment.