Tuesday, April 11, 2017

More to Join Monfared in Jail

In the ever-widening investigation into the UN-Iran sanctions-busting scheme, US authorities have snatched up one more corrupt individual. Mehmet Hakan Atilla, the deputy chief executive officer at Turkey's Halk Bank, has been indicted in New York along with Reza Zarrab, who was picked up in Florida several months ago. Mr. Zarrab is part of the group of persons, which included Alireza Ziba Halat Monfared, who have been implicated in a massive scheme to defraud the Iranian government out of billions of dollars while circumventing the United Nations embargo on Iran.

The new superseding indictment, unsealed on April 5th, names four individuals and includes Reza Zarrab's brother Mohammed Zarrab and two other persons; Camelia Jamshidy and Hossein Najafzadeh. The indictment lists Mohammed Zarrab as the owner of a network of money services companies in Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. Ms. Jamshidy is listed as an employee of Reza Zarrab and Mr. Najafzadeh is listed as a senior officer of Mellat Exchange, a large Iranian financial services company tied to Mellat Investment Bank.

Click to view new Indictment
The arrest and indictment of Reza Zarrab has far reaching implications for the Turkish government. Said to be implicated in the scheme are senior members of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government and if there was any indication as to how serious the ramifications could be for Mr. Erdogan, it has been reported that the recent hiring of former NYC Mayor Rudolph Guiliani, himself a former US Attorney in the same office now prosecuting Mr. Zarrab, and former US Attorney General Michael Mulkasey by Mr. Zarrab was done at the behest of Mr. Erdogan. The addition of these two prominent lawyers has not been sealed, for their inclusion on the defense team of Reza Zarrab is the subject of a Curcio hearing; the government is challenging the hiring and wants the judge to reject Mr. Guiliani and Mr. Mulkasey on conflict of interest grounds. New York Newsday reported on March 31st that Mr. Guiliani and Mr. Mulkasey both met with Mr. Erdogan on matters relating to the case against Reza Zarrab. According to Newsday, federal prosecutors handling the case said they were told that Mr.Guiliani and Mr. Mulkasey notified US Attorney General Jeff Sessions of their visit to Turkey in late February, just weeks before the firing of Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara, who had been overseeing Zarrab's prosecution.

Michael Mulkasey (l), Rudolph Giuliani (r)
Photo courtesy New York Newsday
The arrest of Mehmet Hakan Atilla threatens to open the gates even wider in this case. The government has charged Mr. Atilla with Conspiracy to Violate the International Economic Powers Act and Conspiracy to Commit Bank Fraud. In elaborate detail, the government details the scheme in this indictment, which includes references to monies wired to a Malaysian company, not named in the indictment. Is is possible this unnamed Malaysian company be tied to Monfared? It's possible, and we will see as the case moves through the judicial system. 

Babak Zanjani (l), Reza Zarrab (r)
How all this will affect Dominica is an open question. It is well documented that Mr. Monfared was in possession of a diplomatic passport from Dominica, which didn't help him quite the way he was hoping. He was picked up in the Dominican Republic and shuttled to Tehran via Havana under the noses of US authorities. Iranian press reports that he sits in jail pending a trial that will certainly lead to execution upon his conviction. The mastermind of the scheme, Babak Zanjani, also sits in an Iranian jail on death row. Mr. Monfared's close association with Roosevelt Skerrit is under scrutiny by federal authorities, who may well have an indictment awaiting him when he is no longer Prime Minister.

Roosevelt Skerrit (l), Alireza Monfared (r)
Mr. Skerrit remains at large by virtue of his status as a sitting head of state. However, it is not a safe bet. There have been instances, albeit rare, where supposedly "safe" leaders have been apprehended by law enforcement authorities. We suspect Mr. Skerrit may be nervous. We would like to point out something here for our readers; much speculation exists among Mr. Skerrit's supporters that he has not been accused of any wrongdoing, and while we acknowledge that federal authorities have not publicly disclosed any information to support this speculation, it does not mean that Mr. Skerrit is in the clear. Mr. Skerrit has become filthy rich through his association with nefarious characters around the world and the pilfering of our national resources. If, in the movement of illicit money, Mr. Skerrit utilized the services of any US financial institution, which is almost guaranteed, he would be subject to US laws and could face bribery and money laundering charges at the least. Put differently, if investigators determine that Mr. Skerrit at any time was in possession of monies illicitly appropriated which, while being transferred to accounts controlled by him, was handled at some point in the transaction by a US bank, Mr. Skerrit would be in deep shit. If you doubt that just read the indictment against Zarrab and his co-conspirators for proof. 

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