Turkey issues arrest warrants over US case against banker
Turkey yesterday issued arrest warrants for two men accused of handing Washington fabricated reports and stealing documents in a case against a top Turkish banker suspected of violating US sanctions on Iran, local media reported.
Former main opposition Republican People's Party MP Aykan Erdemir and certified bank auditor Osman Zeki Canitez are accused of giving "fake reports" for use as evidence by US authorities investigating gold trader Reza Zarrab and Mehmet Hakan Atilla, the deputy chief executive of Turkish lender Halkbank, Dogan news agency reported.
The men are being investigated over whether they "destroyed paperwork relating to state security" and stole documents with the intention of using them abroad, according to a statement from the Istanbul public prosecutor, quoted by Dogan.
The men were named in the New York court case witness list, according to the agency.
The Zarrab probe has further strained ties between the US and Turkey, and has angered President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who raised the subject repeatedly with officials both under Barack Obama and President Donald Trump.
Analysts say the case has the potential for embarrassing revelations and possible sanctions on one or more Turkish banks in the event of a guilty verdict, which could harm the Turkish economy.
All the signs indicated on Monday that Zarrab had cut a deal with prosecutors and agreed to plead guilty, which could potentially still see him testify.
Atilla is charged on six counts of violating US sanctions on Iran, bribery and money laundering. The trial was expected to begin later yesterday.
Ankara alleges the case is a conspiracy brought by the group run by US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, an ally-turned-foe of Erdogan.
Turkey claims Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, ordered a 2016 failed coup against Erdogan. He denies any involvement.
Erdemir is based in Washington and is a senior fellow at the US-based think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD).
The prosecutor said in a statement that Canitez was on the run, Dogan reported.
FDD chairman Mark Dubowitz and senior vice chairman Jonathan Schanzer will be called as expert witnesses during the trial, Anadolu reported last week.
Turkish prosecutors earlier this month launched a criminal investigation into former US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara -- who was fired this year by Trump -- and his successor Joon Kim.