US authorities have arrested Turkish businessman Reza Zarrab and a banker Mehmet Hakan Atilla on charges of conspiring to evade US sanctions against Iran.

Turkish businessman, Reza Zarrab (C) arrested in the USA on allegedly violating of US' sanctions on Iran.
Turkish businessman, Reza Zarrab (C) arrested in the USA on allegedly violating of US' sanctions on Iran. (AFP)

The businessman, Reza Zarrab, will not go on trial on charges of conspiring to evade US sanctions against Iran, US District Judge Richard Berman said on Monday. 

Zarrab, 34, stopped appearing in court in the two months leading up to his scheduled trial, prompting Turkey’s prime minister to suggest he has reached a plea deal with US authorities.

Zarrab and eight other people, including Turkey’s former economy minister and three executives of Turkish state-owned Halkbank, have been charged with engaging in transactions for Iran’s government and Iranian entities from 2010 to 2015 in a scheme to evade US sanctions.

Only Zarrab and Mehmet Hakan Atilla, one of the Halkbank executives, have been arrested by US authorities.

TRT World's Ediz Tiyansan has more details.

US District Judge Richard Berman in Manhattan told potential jurors on Monday morning that Atilla, 47, will be the only person on trial.

Benjamin Brafman, a lawyer for Zarrab, declined to comment on Zarrab’s absence at the trial. A spokesman for the prosecutors did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The case is acutely sensitive in Turkey in part because the prosecutors say Turkey’s former economy minister, Zafer Caglayan, was involved in the alleged conspiracy. Caglayan has denied the charges.

Ankara has said the case has been fabricated for political motives. This has exacerbated tensions between NATO allies, Turkey and the US.

TRT World's Hasan Abdullah reports from Ankara.

Prosecutors said in a court filing four weeks ago that Zarrab once told another defendant he had spoken with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan directly about the alleged scheme.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said he sees the hand of US-based cleric Fetullah Gulen in this case.

Ankara accuses Gulen of masterminding last year’s failed military coup in Turkey and also of driving an earlier legal case involving Zarrab.

Arrest warrants issued for suspects   

The Istanbul chief prosecutor's office on Tuesday issued arrest warrants for two suspects Osman Zeki Canitez and Aykan Erdemir who is also a former deputy of main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP).

Both men have been charged with "stealing documents related to national security."

Canitez and Erdemir have been listed as witnesses in the case of Reza Zarrab, a Turkish businessman in the US awaiting trial.

The suspects were allegedly involved in a so-called graft probe against top government officials on December 17-25, 2013 and are also accused of providing fabricated documents to US officials in relation to the Zarrab case. 

The probe, including a large-scale raid and the detention of prominent figures, allegedly aimed to overthrow Turkey’s elected government. 

In a statement the prosecutor's office said the suspects submitted "so-called files" dated January 28, 2014 from the probe to New York County District Attorney's Office as evidence in the Zarrab trial.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies