Reza Zarrab's Ex-Cellmate Accuses Him of Rape

Turkish gold trader Reza Zarrab is shown in this court room sketch as he appears in Manhattan federal court in New York

Turkey has seized a private jet and a luxury yacht owned by Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab as part of the government's latest response to the businessman's guilty plea in a USA trial that implicated President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's close circle.

Corroborating criticisms that justice was not served by the probe's closure, Zarrab said that he helped pay his way out of a Turkish prison.

Faouzi Jaber, 62, an Ivory Coast native awaiting sentencing in a federal weapons and drugs case, says in his Manhattan Supreme civil suit that he was cellmates with Reza Zarrab, 34, from 2016 through this past spring.

Zarrab is testifying for US prosecutors against an executive from Turkey's majority state-owned Halkbank who is accused of taking part in the scheme with Zarrab.

The accusations have surfaced as Zarrab testifies before a federal court in Manhattan on his role in a lucrative regional trade circuit, that saw Iran inject billions of euros of hydrocarbon revenues into the global banking sector via Turkey's public banking institution - circumventing United States sanctions prohibiting trade with Teheran.

Zarrab was the prime suspect in a major corruption investigation in Turkey that became public in December 2013 in which with others from the inner circle of the ruling AK Party government and then-Prime Minister Erdoğan for having paid Cabinet-level officials and bank officers bribes to facilitate transactions benefiting Iran.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday that the trial is a conspiracy to "blemish" the country.

Overshadowed by this geopolitical intrigue, Zarrab has been called as the USA government's star witness - not against any president or politician, but against a banker: Mehmet Hakan Atilla, a former manager at the state-run Halkbank.

Zarrab said that retaliation from his government has not stopped him from testifying. On Thursday CNN Turk said Erdogan had said Turkey did not violate USA sanctions.

Jaber's suit says Zarrab, a wealthy gold trader, first befriended him in Manhattan's Metropolitan Correctional Center based on their shared Shia Muslim faith.

Newly released from prison, Zarrab said, he considered starting "to trade again" at Halkbank.

Zarrab's testimony likely will win him leniency against charges that otherwise could carry a prison term of up to 130 years.

The defense says Atilla is "not corrupt".

Zarrab has confessed to bribing U.S. prison guards in exchange for booze and cell phones. Mr. Zarrab also had money wired to the inmate's family in Africa and placed in the inmate's commissary account, the lawsuit said.

The two men were housed in different cells in the same unit of the Brooklyn jail when they developed a friendship because both were Shia Muslims, the suit claims.

The inmate, who is in his early 60s, "felt helpless and unable to fight off the younger and stronger" man, the suit says, adding that the inmate was also "too scared and embarrassed at that time to complain or to seek help".

Zarrab's lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, denied the charges.

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