Reza Zarrab, the US government's key witness in the trial of Turkish banker Mehmet Hakan Atilla, once said it's necessary in America to admit to crimes that never occurred to get out of prison, defence lawyers wrote in a letter to the trial judge.
Reza Zarrab's has proclaimed his willingness to lie in exchange for leniency, according to a letter submitted in court by the lawyers for Halkbank executive Mehmet Hakan Atilla, who is charged with scheming to violate US sanctions against Iran.
In a September 2016 recording, Zarrab is quoted as saying that there was a perceived need when incarcerated in the US to lie "in order to get out or to get a reduced sentence" and that "you need to admit to crimes you haven't committed" to get out of prison, the lawyers said.
Atilla's lawyers also accused US prosecutors of withholding evidence that might help exculpate their client that included recordings of Zarrab's alleged willingness to lie in exchange for leniency.
In a letter on Monday to US District Judge Richard Berman in Manhattan, lawyers for Mehmet Hakan Atilla said prosecutors on Saturday evening turned over important materials to them that the judge ordered be turned over on November 28, and that such a delay makes it harder for the defence to prepare.
The letter was later removed from online court records without explanation.
"Zarrab is proclaiming his willingness to fabricate testimony out of whole cloth in order to obtain a reduced sentence," Atilla's lawyers wrote in the letter.
"The belated production of these statements not only violates this court's November 28 order, but also significantly impairs the ability of the defense to properly and effectively utilise them at trial," the lawyers added.
"Mr. Zarrab understands his obligation to provide fully truthful testimony," Robert Anello, a lawyer for Zarrab, said in an email.
A spokesman for Acting US Attorney Joon Kim in Manhattan, whose office is prosecuting the case, declined to comment.
Prosecutors were in court on Monday, where Zarrab is testifying for the fourth day.
Zarrab has pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.
Atilla has pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors have alleged that nine defendants took part in a scheme from 2010 to 2015 that involved gold trades and fake purchases of food to give Iran access to international markets, violating US sanctions.
Only Zarrab, 34, and Atilla, 47, have been arrested by US authorities.
In Monday's letter, Atilla's lawyers also renewed arguments that they have not had enough time to review materials turned over by prosecutors, that were in Azeri and Turkish language, making it harder for their client to get a fair trial.
Arrests in Turkey
Meanwhile, Turkish police have detained a total of 17 people as part of an investigation related to Zarrab, according to police sources.
Three of the suspects had been arrested previously, and the remainder were arrested on Tuesday, said a source, who asked not to be named due to restrictions on speaking to the media.
Three suspects - identified as Sinem A, Regaip A, and Mustafa H - were working with Zarrab and allegedly sent documents to the US concerning the case.