Turkish prosecutors seize assets of gold trader testifying in US trial against Turkish banker accused of violating sanctions against Iran
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared on Sunday that businessmen who move assets abroad are committing "treason," adding that his government should put an end to the practice.
"I am aware that some businessmen are attempting to place their assets overseas. I call on the government not to authorise any such moves, because these are acts of treason," Erdogan said in televised comments to party members in the eastern city of Mus.
The Turkish president did not name names, but his comments came two days after Turkish prosecutors ordered the seizure of assets of a gold trader testifying in a New York trial against a Turkish banker accused of violating US sanctions against Iran.
Under Erdogan, the Turkish government appears to be directly involved in criminal activity. https://t.co/qfGplolclP
— Foreign Affairs (@ForeignAffairs) December 3, 2017
The trial has caused already strained ties between NATO allies Ankara and Washington to deteriorate further as Reza Zarrab detailed in court a scheme to evade the US sanctions, saying that Erdogan personally authorised two Turkish banks to join the scheme when prime minister.
The Istanbul public prosecutor said the assets of Zarrab and his family would be confiscated as part of a probe, the state Anadolu news agency said.
The Hurriyet daily said the order affected Zarrab and 22 others, including his daughter with Turkish pop star Ebru Gundes.
Zarrab told the court he was informed that in 2012, then prime minister Erdogan and then treasury minister Ali Babacan had given "instructions" for two other Turkish public banks, Vakif and Ziraat, to take part in the scheme.
There are fears in Turkey that a guilty verdict in the Zarrab case may lead to possible sanctions on one or more Turkish banks, spelling bad news for the country's fragile economy.
Ankara has cast the testimony as an attempt to undermine Turkey and its economy, and has previously said it was a "clear plot" by the network of US-based Fethullah Gulen, who it alleges engineered last year's coup attempt.
Erdogan on Sunday described the ongoing trial in the United States as an "attempt at blackmail" to which "we will not submit".