Zarrab suspected of sending $1.5 million for assassination of Saudi envoy



Reza Zarrab, an Iranian businessman who has been arrested as part of an ongoing graft probe, is claimed to have transferred the money for an assassination plot revealed three years ago that was to have been carried out by an Iranian-American against the Saudi ambassador to the US and of perhaps being a member of the Iranian al-Quds Force, a branch of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

“Is Reza Zarrab, who, according to a report by MİT [Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization] sent $1.5 million for the assassination [of the Saudi ambassador]a member of the al-Quds Force, which is part of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps?” asked Umut Oran, deputy chairman of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), in a written parliamentary question he submitted on Friday to be answered by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Erdoğan had described Zarrab as a charitable businessperson after Zarrab, who is also a Turkish citizen, was arrested in connection with a corruption probe in which four former Cabinet ministers are also implicated and which was made public on Dec. 17.

Manssour Arbabsiar, a dual US-Iranian citizen, was arrested in September 2011 in the US for conspiring to murder Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi ambassador to the US. Arbabsiar, who was sentenced in May 2013 to 25 years in prison, pleaded guilty in court in October 2012, acknowledging that he had hired an apparent drug dealer in Mexico in 2011 for the assassination plot.

Noting that Arbabsiar said in his first statement that he was employed, financed and directed by the al-Quds Force, Oran demanded to know in his parliamentary question: “Is Reza Zarrab, who is claimed to have sent money to this person, a member of the Iranian intelligence or military units. Have you received any information of this type?”

During the trial of Arbabsiar in the US, Iran denied the allegations about Arbabsiar, calling the accusations about a plot baseless, but then-FBI Acting Assistant Director Mary Galligan said after Arbabsiar’s guilty plea that the plea confirmed that he had planned to assassinate the Saudi ambassador, according to Authorities said Arbabsiar had admitted his role in a $1.5 million plot to kill the ambassador at a restaurant by setting off explosives, the news portal also said on Oct. 17, 2012.

According to the charges in the ongoing graft probe in Turkey, a criminal organization allegedly headed by Zarrab is thought to have distributed a total of TL 137 million ($66 million) in bribes to some Cabinet ministers and their sons to cloak fictitious exports and money laundering in which the organization was allegedly engaged. According to the main opposition CHP, the total of the alleged government corruption could represent a sum as large as TL 247 billion ($113 billion).

In the parliamentary questions he submitted, Oran also noted that, as per a MİT report dated Oct. 21, 2011 that became public, Zarrab sent $1.5 million to Arbabsiar for the assassination and that the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had detected the move.

“Was the information contained in the MİT document that was signed by six MİT members and presented under the heading ‘To Mr. Undersecretary [of MİT]’ and dated Oct. 21, 2011, that said the companies Azra and Hacer Jewelery, [of]which Zarrab is the real owner, sent money for a murder-for-hire to Manssour Arbabsiar, who planned to murder Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi ambassador to the US, communicated to you?” Oran asked.

The CHP deputy chairman further asked Erdoğan whether he had launched any investigation regarding the issue and wanted to know whether this information was shared, in line with international practices, with the US or Saudi Arabia, or whether these two countries had sent him any information on the subject.

Maintaining, based on the investigation conducted by the FBI, that the money was sent to Arbabsiar by way of a bank account managed by the al-Quds Force, Oran asked: “The MİT document says Reza Zarrab is the real owner of Azra İthalat ve İhracat Ticaret Limited Şirketi and Hacer Mücevherat Kuyumculuk Turizm Otomotiv Gıda Tekstil Sanayi Limited and that these are front companies. Has any financial or legal investigation been launched regarding these companies?”

In documents sent to Parliament by the İstanbul Prosecutor’s Office, which is carrying out the corruption probe, former Cabinet ministers Zafer Çağlayan, minister of the economy; Muammer Güler, minister of the interior, and Egemen Bağış, minister of EU affairs, are alleged to have accepted bribes from Zarrab.

According to the summary of proceedings sent by prosecutors in charge of the graft investigation, Zarrab is alleged to have bribed Çağlayan with a total of $52 million on 28 different occasions, that he gave Güler a total of $10 million on 10 occasions and that Bağış received a total of $1.5 million in bribes on three separate occasions.

Reportedly, Çağlayan, his wife and their two sons also flew with Zarrab to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on Zarrab’s private jet to perform umrah (a pilgrimage to Mecca) on March 22, 2013.

In police wiretap recordings, Zarrab can allegedly be heard addressing Çağlayan as “older brother,” an informal way of addressing elders one feels close to in Turkish.

There are also claims that Çağlayan may have received a total of TL 105 million ($50.5 million) in bribes from Zarrab in return for having bureaucrats in his ministry aid the alleged criminal organization in its unlawful business dealings.


Comments are closed.


Discover more from Middle East Transparent

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading