Tehran, Iran, November 11
By Mehdi Sepahvand –- Trend:
A plaintiff testifying in the case of Iranian tycoon Babak Zanjani has confirmed the existence of financial links between the defendant and Turkey-based businessman Reza Zarrab.
The eighth court hearing of Zanjani, the businessman accused of defrauding the Iranian Oil Ministry, was held in Tehran’s Revolution Court 15, ISNA reported on Nov. 11.
During the hearing, judge Abolqassem Salavati asked Hong Kong Intertrade Company’s (HKICO's) lawyer Qolamhossein Sadeqi Qahhareh to state his complaint.
“The accused used to spend Korean won and Turkish lira to buy assets and make investments instead of paying contractors,” Qahhareh claimed, adding, “He has deposited most of the lira in a currency exchange account in Reza Zarrab's name.”
Zarrab, accused of being the ringleader in Turkey of a shady money-laundering and gold-smuggling ring that was established to dodge sanctions against Iran, told prosecutors interrogating him in 2013 that Zanjani was his boss.
Zarrab was detained in Istanbul on December 17, 2013, due to his involvement in an alleged bribery, corruption, and smuggling racket with the sons of three then-ministers in the Turkish government, Erdoğan Bayraktar, Muammer Güler, and Zafer Çağlayan, and Egemen Bagis, the former minister of EU Affairs and Turkey's chief negotiator in accession talks with the European Union.
On Nov. 10, Zanjani claimed he owned 22 billion euros in cash and would pay the Oil Ministry the amount it claims to have credited him. The Central Bank of Iran, however, announced on Nov. 11 that he does not have this money.
The Iranian Oil Ministry has sued Zanjani on charges of fraud.
A key facilitator for Iranian oil deals, Zanjani was arrested in Iran in December 2013. He owns and operates UAE-based Sorinet Group, which provides support for Iranian oil trading companies, including Naftiran Intertrade Company Ltd. (NICO) and the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC).
Judge Salavati announced at the beginning of an Oct. 5 hearing that Zanjani's foreign lawyers had provided a draft of an unconditional commitment to pay off all the money owed to the NIOC.
The debt was reportedly to be paid out to HKICO on Oct. 5, according to the legal director of NIOC.
HKICO belongs to NIOC, and according to Iranian media, the transaction was to take place quite quickly using this intermediary.
According to the indictment, Zanjani failed to pay the 2.7 billion euros expected from an oil export deal and instead paid only 700 million euros, spending the rest on personal matters.
According to the prosecutor's office, Zanjani maintains his failure to pay the debt was due to the sanctions laid against the FIIB Bank in Malaysia. The office added, however, that Zanjani had provided no evidence of doing any substantial business with this bank.
It also alleges that he was trying to pay his debt through forged letters of credit.
Meanwhile, Zanjani is also wanted outside Iran. The tycoon has been blacklisted by the European Union (on Nov. 8, 2014) because of his support for financing transactions in Iranian crude oil, conducted by Iran's Oil Ministry. He has also helped the Central Bank of Iran and NIOC to evade EU sanctions and has made transfers of oil-related funds through NICO and HKICO.
In August 2012, the FIIB issued a letter of credit to HKICO for almost $600 million in relation to an oil contract. HKICO was identified by the Treasury as an NIOC front company in July 2012. A May 2012 oil contract negotiated by Zanjani on behalf of ISO , worth over $200 million, was financed by both FIIB and SCT bankers.
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