NEW YORK (AP) — Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and a former U.S. attorney general are seeking a “diplomatic solution” to resolving charges that a prominent Turkish businessman helped Iran evade U.S. sanctions, a defense lawyer said Tuesday, insisting that their actions — including meeting Turkey’s president — weren’t intended to derail prosecutors.
“We’ve acted aboveboard,” attorney Ben Brafman told a Manhattan judge as he explained that he told prosecutors last month that Giuliani and ex-U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey were going to meet Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as part of their work on behalf of Reza Zarrab. “Nobody was trying to hide their involvement.”
He said Mukasey, a former Manhattan federal judge who served as attorney general under President George W. Bush, also informed Attorney General Jeff Sessions before the trip.
Brafman said there was nothing wrong with his client hiring Mukasey and Giuliani, a former Manhattan U.S. attorney and a close supporter and adviser to President Donald Trump, “in an attempt to explore whether there may be a diplomatic solution to this case.”
Zarrab, 33, of Istanbul, has pleaded not guilty to charges he conspired to process hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of financial transactions for Iranian businesses or Iran’s government from 2010 to 2015. Authorities say those transactions are banned by U.S. and international sanctions. An August trial is scheduled.
Zarrab is a well-known personality in Turkey partly because he’s married to Turkish pop star and TV personality Ebru Gundes.
Brafman told U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman that he reassured prosecutors, including then-U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, during a February meeting that the efforts of Giuliani and Mukasey were not designed to “back door” prosecutors.
“I made that clear to them,” he said.
He said it was intended that any progress diplomatically would result in further meetings with prosecutors to “maybe help structure a resolution” to the case.
Bharara was fired last month after he did not resign when prosecutors appointed by previous presidents were invited to submit resignations.
Brafman spoke Tuesday before Berman announced he would conduct a hearing in a few weeks to ensure Zarrab knows about and accepts potential conflicts of interest arising because Giuliani’s firm was hired to represent Turkey in other matters and because Giuliani and Mukasey belong to firms that have represented banks described as victims of a scheme to help Iran evade sanctions.
The judge said he may ask to privately view retainer agreements signed by Giuliani and Mukasey and to learn who is paying for the representation.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Dennis Lockard said prosecutors are seeking to “protect the integrity of these proceedings.”
In court papers, prosecutors say they were told Giuliani and Mukasey also planned to meet U.S. government officials outside the prosecutor’s office “to discuss a potential disposition of this case.”
Lockard said, “Their representation not only may but are intended to affect these proceedings.”
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