Cushy Bail Package Nixed in Iran Sanctions Case

     MANHATTAN (CN) — A wealthy Turkish businessman accused of violating sanctions against Iran cannot await trial by substituting jail for his New York apartment, where private guards on his payroll would monitor him, a federal judge ruled Thursday.
     The Iranian-born Reza Zarrab, who runs several billion-dollar enterprises, had been traveling with his wife and 5-year-old daughter to Disneyland in March when authorities arrested him under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.
     Zarrab, now 33, maintains that he had been sending money between non-U.S. banks that he did not realize passed through the U.S. Federal Reserve.
     The international businessman’s request that he await trial in what the New York Times called a self-financed “gilded cage” made him the marquee example of the paper’s feature on plum bail packages for the rich.
     Promising to relinquish their client’s Turkish, Iranian and Macedonian passports, Zarrab’s lawyers assured the court that his privately funded guards from the top-flight security company Guidepost would watch his heavily surveilled Manhattan high-rise 24-7 to guarantee his presence in court.
     Zarrab also offered to submit to GPS monitoring and post a $50 million bond, secured by a $10 million cash deposit.
     For U.S. District Judge Richard Berman, however, the private pretrial regime Zarrab envisioned implicated the issue of fundamental fairness.
     “Most importantly, the defendant’s privately funded armed guard proposal is unreasonable because it helps to foster inequity and unequal treatment in favor of a very small cohort of criminal defendants who are extremely wealthy, such as Mr. Zarrab,” Berman wrote in a 35-page opinion.
     The court invoked late Chief Justice Earl Warren to underline the issue.
     “The quality of a nation’s civilization can be largely measured by the method it uses in the enforcement of its criminal law,” Warren wrote in Miranda v. Arizona. “When those methods result in arbitrary inequality because of race, indigence or otherwise, the nation as a whole suffers as well as those who are victims of inequality.”
     In fact, Berman said, Zarrab had not actually proposed pretrial release at all, but rather a “less onerous form of detention available only to the wealthy.”
     “The privately funded armed guard regime proposed by the defense is not reasonable because, in too many respects, it substitutes judicial oversight and management for (more appropriate) reliance upon trained, experienced, and qualified professionals from the U.S. Bureau of Prisons and the U.S. Marshals Service,” his opinion states.
     At a bail hearing earlier this month, Zarrab’s lawyer Benjamin Brafman did not shy away from addressing what he called the “elephant in the room or the nation” — that is, inequality in the criminal justice system.
     The attorney called it “sad but true” that the justice system treats the rich and the poor differently. That disparity, Brafman added, “is not something that’s Mr. Zarrab’s fault.”
     Brafman revealed little about his next steps in a statement.
     “We are deeply disappointed by Judge Berman’s decision, but are intent on continuing to vigorously defend Mr. Zarrab who we believe to be innocent,” he said. “We are also carefully reviewing the court’s decision on bail to see if an appeal is appropriate.”
     Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Lockard called Zarrab’s passport at the bail hearing “thick as a novel,” with visits to non-U.S.-extradition countries including Lebanon, Russia, Azberjian, Egypt, Maldives and Saudi Arabia.
     Berman’s ruling identifies Zarrab as Turkey’s 56th top taxpayer, whose various businesses pull in more than $11 billion a year in foreign countries.
     Typically described as a gold trader, Zarrab also has a shipbuilding company in Istanbul named Royal Shipping, a real estate construction company, a furniture manufacturing operation in Istanbul named Royal Mobilya, and a tea-brokerage business trading Sri Lankan tea destined for Turkey, according to the ruling.
     A Turkish report estimates Zarrab’s gold transactions to be worth $8 billion, and Zarrab’s wife, Ebru Gundes, is a popular Turkish pop singer, actress and television personality on “O Ses Türkiye,” the Turkish version of “The Voice.”
     The Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office declined to comment.

%d bloggers like this: