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U.S. Prosecutors Outline 'High-Level' Conspiracy To Evade Iran Sanctions

Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab (center)

U.S. prosecutors said they will show that a Turkish-Iranian gold trader coordinated an illegal scheme to help Iran evade U.S. sanctions with people at "high levels" in Turkey and Iran.

During a pretrial hearing in a Manhattan district court on April 24, Assistant U.S. Attorney Dennis Lockard said he would prove that Reza Zarrab and his co-conspirators offered their services to process hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of prohibited financial transactions for Iran's government and businesses in a letter personally addressed to then-Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad.

Zarrab then worked with high-level government and banking officials in Iran and Turkey to carry out the scheme, which benefited, among others, "the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, ... Iranian banks that have been sanctioned for their role in providing financing for Iran's nuclear programs, and Iranian commercial airlines," he said.

Zarrab, 33, who was arrested in March 2016, has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Lockard said Zarrab is charged with a "serious national security offense," despite efforts by his politically connected lawyers to portray the charges as minor because they do not involve the sale of weapons, nuclear technology, or contraband to Iran.

Based on reporting by AP and Washington Hatti