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Judge’s decision on Giuliani’s involvement with Zarrab case could come before Trump-Erdogan meeting

By Ilhan Tanır, Washington DC

Reza Zarrab appeared in a New York federal courtroom on Tuesday for a Curcio hearing to examine conflicts of interests posed by the expansion of his defense team to include former New York City mayor and current Trump advisor Rudy Giuliani and former US Attorney General Michael Mukasey. During the hearing, Zarrab answered prepared questions as part of the court’s attempt to determine whether Zarrab adequately understands Giuliani and Mukasey’s possible conflicts of interest and whether those conflicts would prevent them from offering him an adequate defense. The hearing was adjourned until May 11.

The two greatest areas of concern are conflicts between Zarrab’s defense and the interests of other clients of both Giuliani and Mukasey’s firms, which represent as many as 8 US and international banks that may have been the victims of Zarrab’s alleged crimes, and Giuliani’s relationships with the US and Turkish governments.

In Tuesday’s hearing, Judge Berman asked whether, when meeting with American or Turkish government officials, Giuliani, a lobbyist for the Turkish government, would be representing the Turkish government or Zarrab. Zarrab’s attorney Benjamin Brafman said that Giuliani, who did not appear in court, would be representing Zarrab.

The day’s most surprising moment came when Judge Berman characterized an affidavit presented by Rudy Giuliani as “surprisingly disingenuous”. Judge Berman’s harsh condemnation was in reference to Giuliani’s failure to mention Iran at all in his affidavit, although Iran plays a central role in the case, with Zarrab facing charges of violating US sanctions on the Iranian government. The omission is particularly striking in light of Giuliani’s well-known hawkish stance and frequent provocative public statements on Iran. Berman also expressed frustration at the affidavit’s attempt to characterize the transactions listed in the indictment only involved “consumer goods,” in sharp contrast to the serious felony charges faced by Zarrab.

Another significant moment came when Zarrab was asked whether he or his associates had ever done business with US or Turkish government officials. His attorney, in a shocking admission, conceded this was possible. The reason for this admission may lie in Zarrab’s emails, which the earlier it was admitted by the prosecution that it has been under FBI surveillance since September 2014. If this is the case, it is reasonable to assume that the FBI would be aware of which Turkish authorities Zarrab has been in contact with since that time. A hearing to determine whether Zarrab’s emails will be admitted into evidence is scheduled for May 18.

Zarrab waived his right to conflict-free council and affirmed his full faith in his legal team, sending a clear message to Ankara about his level of confidence. In court, Zarrab conducted himself more like a witness in someone else’s case than a defendant facing serious felony criminal charges, and looked comfortable and confident, as if he believed people charged with saving him were waiting in the wings. He may have good reason for this confidence as, should he choose to talk to the prosecution, Zarrab could receive a substantial reduction in sentencing. He may also be buoyed by the widespread belief that if he does decide to talk, others could find themselves in serious trouble.

Berman’s ruling on Giuliani’s involvement could come within days of the May 11 hearing, possibly even before Trump meets with Erdogan on May 16.

Translated from Turkish version by the WHattı team

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