U.S. Can Pursue Turk Accused of Conspiring to Violate Iran Sanctions

By Benjamin Weiser for The New York Times

Reza Zarrab has been accused of facilitating millions of dollars in transactions on behalf of Iran. Credit Ozan Kose/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A federal judge in Manhattan refused on Monday to dismiss an indictment against a Turkish gold trader, Reza Zarrab, who has been jailed in New York and is awaiting trial on charges that he conspired to violate United States sanctions on Iran.

Prosecutors have accused Mr. Zarrab, 33, of facilitating millions of dollars in transactions on behalf of Iran and other sanctioned entities through the use of false documentation and front companies. He has also been charged with conspiracies to commit money laundering and bank fraud.

Mr. Zarrab’s lawyers had asked the judge, Richard M. Berman of Federal District Court, to dismiss the indictment, calling the government’s case “unprecedented” and “a prosecutorial overreach of the first order.”

Judge Berman, in rejecting the defense arguments, ruled that the indictment clearly set forth the required elements for the charges.“The dismissal of an indictment is an ‘extraordinary remedy’ reserved only for extremely limited circumstances implicating fundamental rights,” he wrote.

The case of Mr. Zarrab, who has pleaded not guilty, has been closely watched in Turkey, where in 2013 he was detained by the authorities during a corruption investigation of businessmen with close links to Recep Tayyip Erdogan, then the country’s prime minister and now its president.

Recently, Mr. Erdogan has said that he had raised Mr. Zarrab’s case with Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. during talks at the United Nations, according to Turkish news reports. Mr. Erdogan has also said there were “malicious intentions” in the prosecution of Mr. Zarrab, according to the reports.

In seeking dismissal of the charges, Mr. Zarrab’s lawyers argued that the United States sanctions laws were “limited to U.S. persons and exports from the U.S.” The prosecutor’s efforts to extend those laws in Mr. Zarrab’s case, the defense said, “is not only unjustified and a due process violation, it is a dangerous extension of U.S. law that should not be allowed.”

The office of Preet Bharara, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, had asked the judge to deny the defense motion. “What arguably is unprecedented about this case,” the prosecutor’s office wrote, “is the scope, complexity and reach of the defendant’s own unlawful scheme, and his level of access to both Iranian and Turkish government officials and to banks to arrange and facilitate that scheme.”

Benjamin Brafman, a lawyer for Mr. Zarrab, and Mr. Bharara’s office each had no comment on the judge’s ruling.

Mr. Zarrab, who is being detained without bail, is scheduled for trial on Jan. 23.