Turkish Businessman Seeks Lavish Bail Package

     MANHATTAN (CN) — Disparate treatment for high-rolling defendants hung heavy in court Thursday as a federal judge considered lavish bail conditions for a wealthy gold trader charged with helping sanctioned Iranian entities.
     Reza Zarrab has been in U.S. custody since March when authorities arrested the 32-year-old in Miami, Florida. He is charged in New York with violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and conspiracy to commit bank fraud.
     A wealthy Turkish-Iranian gold trader, Zarrab had declared $100,000 in cash at customs while entering the United States to take his child to a Walt Disney theme park.
     The indictment also identifies Zarrab by the alias Riza Sarraf, and takes aim at two accused co-conspirators who remain at large.
     At an afternoon bail hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Lockard said Zarrab is an “extraordinary flight risk” who was “duplicitous” and “deceptive” in pretrial statements about his wealth and assets.
     Lockard called Zarrab’s Turkish passport “thick as a novel,” with visits to non-U.S.-extradition countries including Lebanon, Russia, Azberjian, Egypt, Maldives and Saudi Arabia.
     Defense attorney Benjamin Brafman repeatedly insisted that Zarrab is legally entitled to bail, even though he is not a U.S. citizen.
     “We want to make it as user-friendly as possible,” Brafman told the court.
     The attorney noted that security consultants with Guidepost Solutions LLC have already outfitted the 15th floor of an undisclosed Manhattan apartment with monitoring cameras and sensors to serve as Zarrab’s private prison, should Berman allow pretrial home detention.
     Brafman acknowledged what he called the “elephant in the room or the nation” that there is a “sad but true” disparity between how of the justice system treats the rich and the poor.
     That disparity, however, “is not something that’s Mr. Zarrab’s fault,”
     Brafman is seeking a $50 million bond for Zarrab, secured by a $10 million deposit. Other conditions of the bond request limit Zarrab’s travel to the Southern District of New York, home detention in Manhattan with GPS monitoring, as well as private armed security on duty 24-7 to ensure court appearances.
     Lockard told the court that Zarrab runs a network of front companies that helped Iranian entities enter the international financial markets, evading international economic sanctions as a type of “economic jihad.”
     Supporters of Iran’s supreme leader even spoke of a moral and national duty for this work in an email to Zarrab, the prosecutor said.
     Brafman meanwhile called it “disingenuous to pluck someone from a foreign county,” who was only here to go to Walt Disney World with his 5-old-child, and punish him for not having ties to the community.
     If Zarrab did have ties to the community, he would already be out on “reasonable bail,” the defense attorney insisted.
     While the recent the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) relaxed secondary sanctions on Iran, Lockard said “nothing about the JCPOA … changes the criminality of [Zarrab’s] charges.”
     For the government, Zarrab’s failure to disclose his total assets cannot be overlooked. “We have no idea if defendant has $200 million or $2 billion,” Lockard said.
     Brafman referred to Zarrab as the 56th top taxpayer in his home country of Turkey. A Turkish report estimates Zarrab’s gold transactions to be worth $8 billion. 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.”
     U.S. District Judge Richard Berman is expected to make a bail determination in the next week or two.

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