EghtesadOnline: Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s part in helping defend a Turkish-Iranian businessman may come under more scrutiny in a Manhattan court.
A federal judge said Tuesday that he’ll order a hearing and try to get more details about Giuliani’s and former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey’s roles in defending Reza Zarrab, who is accused in the U.S. of helping Iran evade financial sanctions, Bloomberg reported.
Both lawyers have advised President Donald Trump. Their hiring raised concerns that they were retained to use their connections and influence with the Trump administration to resolve the case in a way that was favorable to Zarrab and the Turkish government -- going over the heads of prosecutors in Manhattan who filed the charges in 2015.
Zarrab’s lead lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, last week flatly rejected prosecutors’ demands for more information about Giuliani’s and Mukasey’s roles.
“That information quite frankly is none of the government’s business,” Brafman wrote the judge on March 31. “If the government has the temerity to even intimate that Messrs. Giuliani or Mukasey are engaging in any inappropriate conduct, then let them come out and say it.”
Giuliani’s and Mukasey’s roles are “unquestionably the business of this court,” U.S. District Judge Richard Berman said at Tuesday’s hearing, adding he had a duty to ensure the integrity of the legal proceedings.
Prosecutors disclosed last week that Giuliani and Mukasey flew to Turkey to meet with the country’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and sought meetings with high-level U.S. officials to discuss the case. Zarrab has close ties with Erdogan’s administration, and the Turkish president had accused the U.S. of ulterior motives in charging the businessman.
Zarrab is charged with using his network of companies to move money through the U.S. financial system on behalf of Iran and related companies to help them evade sanctions limitations. He was arrested last year after arriving in the U.S. on a family vacation.
In addition to raising questions about Giuliani’s and Mukasey’s activities, prosecutors said their law firms, Greenberg Traurig LLP and Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, represent banks whose systems were used to process the transactions, including Deutsche Bank AG, Bank of America Corp., JP Morgan Chase & Co. and Citigroup Inc. Greenberg Traurig was also a registered agent in the U.S. on behalf of the Turkish government.
Debevoise & Plimpton didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the judge’s statements. Greenberg Traurig didn’t have an immediate comment.
The case is U.S. v. Zarrab, 15-cr-867, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).