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US Judge In New York Seeks Internal Communications In Turkey Case

A combo photo of Turkish-Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab (R) and banker Mehmet Hakan Atilla
A combo photo of Turkish-Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab (R) and banker Mehmet Hakan Atilla

NEW YORK (AP) — A federal judge wants lawyers in a case involving a billion-dollar scheme to evade American sanctions against Iran to detail any communications they had with the U.S. and Turkish governments.

In a brief order filed in federal court in Manhattan on Thursday, U.S. District Judge Richard Berman directed the government and defense attorneys to include the information in sentencing memos in a U.S. prosecution that resulted in a guilty plea by Reza Zarrab, a wealthy Turkish-Iranian businessman, and the conviction of a Turkish banker.

The case raised tensions between the U.S. and Turkey, where officials called it a charade aimed at discrediting the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The order asks for a description of all "meetings, calls, texts, emails, etc. by all counsel, including Turkish counsel, with any officials of the United States and/or Turkish governments and relating to the prosecution and/or disposition of this case."

The order didn't indicate whether the request related to attempts by two well-connected American lawyers — Rudolph Giuliani, the former New York City mayor, and Michael B. Mukasey, a former attorney general in President George W. Bush's administration — to broker a prisoner exchange with Turkey to win Zarrab's release before the case went to trial. The two met with Erdogan and also discussed the matter with officials in President Donald Trump's administration, but the talks failed to produce a deal.

Both the U.S. attorney's office and a lawyer for Zarrab, Benjamin Brafman, declined to comment Thursday. There was no immediate response to requests for comment from lawyers for the banker, Mehmet Hakkan Atilla.

As part of plea deal, Zarrab ended up testifying against Atilla, the former deputy general manager of Turkey's state-controlled Halkbank. A jury found Atilla guilty this month of conspiracies to violate U.S. sanctions law, defraud the U.S. and commit money laundering and bank fraud.

Attila is set to be sentenced April 11. Zarrab's sentencing hasn't been scheduled.