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Wed Dec 6, 2017, 12:57 PM

Why the tRump Team May Be Worried About a Billion-Dollar Money Laundering Case

It was supposed to be an ordinary family vacation, but it turned into something with grave global implications—and it wasn’t very relaxing.

In the spring of 2016, Reza Zarrab—a wealthy, 34-year-old gold trader—boarded a plane from Istanbul to Miami. He and his wife, the glamorous Turkish pop star Ebru Gündes, told friends they were taking their daughter to Disney World.

But Zarrab never made it to Cinderella’s Castle. When the Iran-born Turkish businessman deplaned in Florida, the FBI arrested him for running an elaborate scheme with one of America’s main adversaries.
Over nearly six years, Zarrab had smuggled up to $1 billion of gold into Iran in exchange for cash, violating sanctions against Tehran, which the U.S. put in place in response to the country’s nuclear program. Zarrab had also arranged to sell Iranian oil and gas (another sanctions violation) using phony invoices to legitimize the deals under a legal U.N. oil for food program.

In the summer of 2016, a few months after Zarrab’s arrest in Miami, there was a coup attempt in Turkey. It failed, but Erdogan once again went after Gülen and his supporters, claiming they were behind it. He began a brutal crackdown on suspected Gülenist sympathizers throughout the country, one that continues today. And he demanded that Washington repatriate Gülen to Ankara for trial, a request the Obama administration denied.

Rejected by the White House, Erdogan reached out to the Trump team, which was in the middle of a heated presidential campaign. In September 2016, the Turkish president sent his foreign minister, his energy minister and his son-in-law to meet with retired–Lieutenant General Michael Flynn at the JW Marriott Essex House hotel in New York City. Flynn was Trump’s key foreign policy adviser, and though he didn’t disclose it at the time, he had accepted more than $500,000 in lobbying fees from a company with close ties to Erdogan. According to former CIA Director James Woolsey, who was also at the meeting, the group discussed a snatch-and-flee operation to return Gülen to Turkey. - Newsweek

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