US judge: Indictment of Turkish businessman can go to trial

NEW YORK (AP) " The United States can continue to prosecute a well-known Turkish businessman on charges that he helped Iran evade U.S. sanctions, a judge ruled Monday.

U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman in Manhattan rejected a request by Reza Zarrab to throw out charges on the grounds that he committed no crimes and he is beyond the reach of U.S. law.

Zarrab, 33, has pleaded not guilty. He has been held without bail since his March arrest at a Miami airport, where he had arrived on vacation with his family.

Zarrab is charged with conspiring to process hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of financial transactions for Iranian businesses or Iran's government. Authorities say those transactions are banned by U.S. and international sanctions.

Prosecutors say Zarrab and two others used a network of companies in Iran, Turkey and elsewhere to launder the proceeds and defraud several financial institutions, including U.S. banks, by concealing the true nature of the financial moves. Zarrab is a well-known personality in Turkey partly because he's married to Turkish pop star and TV personality Ebru Gundes.

In a written ruling, Berman said prosecutors had sufficiently described the charges against Zarrab and shown enough of a connection to the U.S. that he can go to trial in New York.

He noted that the indictment alleges Zarrab and others provided false and misleading statements and stripped material information from wire transfer instructions to influence the decision-making of U.S. banks.

"The court finds that the indictment adequately alleges that Zarrab and his co-conspirators intended to and did victimize the U.S. banks and exposed them to actual or potential losses," Berman wrote.

Defense attorney Paul Clement argued at a recent hearing before Berman that Zarrab acted legally. He called the prosecution unprecedented and a "radical expansion" of the law.

In 2013, Zarrab was arrested in a Turkish government corruption case. He maintained his innocence, and the charges were dropped.

Lawyers did not immediately return messages seeking comment Monday.

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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