A gold trader with ties to Turkey's president took the stand in a Manhattan courtroom on Wednesday and testified that he paid over $60 million in bribes to a government minister to grease the wheels of a scheme to evade U.S. sanctions against Iran, NBC News reported.
Prosecutors showed jurors a tidy spreadsheet that Reza Zarrab said was a partial list of bribes he paid to Turkey's economic minister Mehmet Zafer Caglayan, who is under indictment but not on trial because he is still in Turkey. Not all payments were listed, Zarrab said, but the numbers were massive: 31 million Euros, $4 million in U.S. dollars and 2.4 million Turkish lira.
Zarrab, whose name has come up in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, was the lead defendant in the case until he began cooperating with U.S. authorities and transformed into the star witness against a Turkish banking executive, Mehmet Hakan Atilla.
Turkish President Recep Erdogan pushed both the Obama and Trump administrations to drop the case, and sources have told NBC News that Mueller's team is investigating whether Turkish officials offered a bribe to Mike Flynn, then on the cusp of becoming national security adviser, to make it go away. Flynn's lawyers have denied it.