Murat Can Bilgincan reporting

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The Reza Zarrab Chronology

Reza Zarrab is one of the biggest Iranian sanction evaders of all time. His case in the US has been ruining Turkish-American relations and I’ve been following it inside the federal courthouse for months. The jury trial continues today. Here’s what the fuss is all about:,499258

I’ve also compiled an interactive timeline that puts pretty much everything into perspective:…/953…/The-Reza-Zarrab-Chronology/
Feel free to play around with the 3D and zoom settings as well the Category Bands that will allow you to compare what has been happening in Turkey, Iran and the US simultaneously…

Just in case, here’s a basic, text-only chronology for you:

December 3, 2011: A draft letter is prepared for Reza Zarrab’s signature. It is addressed to the general manager of the Central Bank of Iran:

“…the Zarrab family… considers it to be our national and moral duty to declare our willingness to participate in any kind of cooperation in order to implement monetary and foreign exchange anti-sanction policies.”

February 6, 2013: The US ban on gold exports to Iran implemented[1].

June 15, 2013: Hassan Rouhani elected Iran’s president succeeding Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.[2]

December 17, 2013: Zarrab arrested in Turkey, along with three ministers’ sons and the head of Turkish state-owned Halk Bank. Turkish prosecutors accuse Zarrab of bribing public officials and establishing an illegal organization.[3]

December 25, 2013: Three Turkish cabinet ministers resign.[4]

February 28, 2014: Zarrab released in Turkey.[5]

September 23, 2014: According to Hurriyet, a United States judge approves a search warrant for Zarrab’s Hotmail account.

October 17, 2014: Investigation dismissed in Turkey.[6]

June 21, 2015: Zarrab given a “Champion of Exports” award by Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus and Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci.[7]

July 2015: The Iranian government signs the nuclear deal with six world powers — including the United States ­­– in exchange for the gradual lifting of the economic sanctions.[8]

December 15, 2015: A sealed indictment regarding Zarrab is presented to a US court.

March 6, 2016: Babak Zanjani, Zarrab’s counterpart, sentenced to death in Iran for withholding billions in Iranian oil revenues that were being transferred to Iran via his companies.[9]

March 19, 2016: Zarrab boards a Turkish Airlines plane in Istanbul with his family. According to Zarrab’s WhatsApp messages, the Zarrab family seems to have been on their way to Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

March 21, 2016: Zarrab detained in Miami, FL. [10]

Indictment unsealed. Reza Zarrab accused of sanctions evasion, money laundering, bank fraud and defrauding the United States. Zarrab’s initial maximum potential sentence adds up to 75 years.[11]

March 29, 2016: President Erdogan comments on Zarrab’s arrest: “This is not a matter that has to do with our country. Mr. Zarrab’s lawyers will give the necessary answer.”[12]

April 14, 2016: Reza Zarrab starts his road trip from Miami.[13]

April 27, 2016: Zarrab arraigned in New York City. Pleads not guilty.[14]cizim_t24.jpg

June 16, 2016: Zarrab’s bail application denied. Judge cites flight risk, national security and lack of trust for private guards.

July 15, 2016: Failed coup in Turkey. President Erdogan blames Fethullah Gulen.


July 18, 2016: A total of 15 defense lawyers undersign a memorandum of law submitted to the court. Paul D. Clement, former solicitor general of the United States, Viet D. Dinh, a former assistant attorney general, and William A. Burck, a former White House deputy counsel, all become part of Zarrab’s “dream team.”[15]

July 22, 2016: The Turkish police raids a law firm whose owners were charged with being members of a terrorist organization led by Fethullah Gulen.[16] The law firm was formerly called Yuksel Karkin Kucuk.

August 9, 2016: According to the New York Times, Trump campaign aid and later national security advisor Michael Flynn signs a pro-Turkey lobbying contract with Inovo, a firm with links to President Erdogan.

August 30, 2016: Defense makes a motion to recuse the court due to Judge Richard Berman’s alleged Gulen connection. In 2014, Berman was hosted in Turkey by Yuksel Karkin Kucuk.

September 21, 2016: During his meeting with Vice President Joe Biden, Erdogan demands the release of Zarrab and the firing of Preet Bharara, according to unnamed US officials cited in David Ignatius’s opinion piece.

September 24, 2016: “The US Department of Justice handed Zarrab over to names which FETO (pro-Fethullah Terrorist Organization) had wined and dined,” says President Erdogan. “After all, we have to seek justice for he (Zarrab) is our citizen.”[17] The President acknowledges that he mentioned the case to Vice President Joe Biden. He comments that “malicious intentions” were involved in the case, as his name had been entered into the court record.

September 29, 2016: Judge Berman decides not to recuse himself saying it has been four months since Zarrab’s arraignment.

October 17, 2016: Motion to dismiss denied. Defense argued that this case lies outside the United States’ jurisdiction.

November 9, 2016: Donald Trump elected President of the United States.[18]

February 13, 2017: National Security Advisor Michael Flynn resigns.[19]

After February 24, 2017: President Erdogan meets Rudolph Giuliani, former New York mayor and Trump confidant, in Turkey.

March 11, 2017: Donald Trump fires US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara.[20]

March 27, 2017: Mehmet Hakan Atilla, Halk Bank deputy CEO responsible for international banking, arrested in New York.[21]

Zarrab adds Rudolph Giuliani to his defense team. [22]

March 29, 2017: After Atilla’s arrest, Halk Bank stocks suffer their biggest one-day fall, according to Reuters.

May 16, 2017: Erdogan mentions the case to President Trump in their first meeting.[23]

September 6, 2017: Superseding Indictment filed. Former Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan and former Halk Bank CEO Suleyman Aslan added as co-defendants.

October 26, 2017: Zarrab secretly signs the paperwork and pleads guilty. He accepts an additional charge: bribing correction officers.

October 30, 2017: Zarrab’s lawyer misses a filing deadline for documents that would allow him to challenge certain pieces of evidence. Atilla’s lawyer states that his client may be the only defendant who appears at trial.[24]

November 8, 2017: The US Federal Bureau of Prisons website shows that Zarrab has been released on this day.[25]

November 16, 2017: BDDK, the Turkish banking watchdog, introduces new regulation allowing banks to transfer their assets to another entity without dissolving.[26] The President of BDDK, later says that the law has nothing to do with Halk Bank.

November 18, 2017: Turkey starts to investigate former US attorney Preet Bharara and acting US attorney Joon H. Kim who are responsible for Reza Zarrab’s prosecution.[27]

November 27, 2017: Jury selection begins. According to Reuters, Judge Berman tells potential jurors that Mehmet Hakan Atilla will be the only person on trial. The case’s name becomes “US v. Mehmet Hakan Atilla.” The fate of the seven additional victims is unclear.

November 28, 2017: Opening statements. Atilla accuses his former boss and former Halk Bank CEO Suleyman Aslan of accepting bribes from Zarrab without remorse. Prosecutors reveal that Zarrab is their most important witness.

November 29, 2017: Zarrab’s testimony begins. He tells the jury that he paid over $50 million to Zafer Caglayan, the Turkish economy minister at the time, so that Caglayan would force Halk Bank to take part in Zarrab’s scheme. Zarrab also says that he was hoping that his lawyers, such as Rudy Giuliani, would broker a prisoner exchange deal with Turkey.

November 30, 2017: Zarrab’s testimony continues. He tells the jury that he had been told that Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Prime Minister at the time, had approved the use of two Turkish-state-owned banks in the scheme. Surprisingly, he adds that Atilla, the most knowledgeable Halk Bank official with regards to sanction regulations, was forced to take part in the plot by his boss and that the defendant never asked for a bribe.

December 1, 2017: Prime Minister Binali Yildirim questions Zarrab’s credibility as a witness and adds: “I hope that he turns back from making this mistake.” The Prime Minister emphasizes that the goal of this trial is to “pressurize the Turkish economy.”

Turkish authorities seize Zarrab’s as well as his close circle’s assets in Turkey. The list includes 21 people including Zarrab’s five-year-old daughter.

December 2, 2017: “Courts in the United States cannot put Turkey on trial,” says President Erdogan.