Turkey is always interesting by virtue of its geography at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. It is especially interesting now; it may be switching its allegiance from the US and NATO to Russia. A corruption scandal may reach all the way up to Turkish President Erdogan. From M.K. Bhadrakumar at atimes.com:
As on the soccer field in his youth, so in a tumultuous political career spanning four decades: Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has consistently shown his mettle as a fighter who won’t be satisfied with anything short of total victory. But in the battle that is now unfolding around him, and which is besieging him, there isn’t going to be a winner.
What is at stake is survival – the chance to live another day, even if in some ignominy. That much is clear from the opening testimony in a federal courtroom in New York on Wednesday from the Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab, who allegedly helped Tehran sidestep US sanctions to export oil with the connivance of corrupt Turkish high officials and then to launder the income.
When the principal accused becomes the star witness in a US court, he has possibly struck a deal with the authorities. The remaining ambiguity is with regard to when it was that Zarrab struck the deal – was it when he landed in Miami 18 months ago, ostensibly to show his young son around Disneyland, or before he was spirited out of Turkey to America on the express understanding that he’d get clemency for providing hard evidence to nail Erdogan.
Zarrab explained before the court the elaborate scheme he orchestrated to free “a few billion euros” of Iran’s sanctioned oil using funds deposited in the Turkish state-owned Halkbank which were used to buy gold that was subsequently smuggled to Dubai and sold for cash. (The FBI also nabbed a senior functionary of Halkbank, Hakan Atilla, who is on trial.)
Zarrab named a confidant of Erdogan, the former Turkish Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan, as having taken bribes amounting to over US$60 million and also implicated Turkey’s Aktif Bank, which is part of a holding company headed at the time by Erdogan’s son-in-law, Berat Albayrak (the current energy minister). Zarrab is due to testify again. We have only seen the tip of the iceberg.
To continue reading: Gold dealer’s testimony puts Erdogan on shaky ground