Reza Zarrab, Taped in Jail, Said Lying Was Ticket to Freedom

It was not until last week that prosecutors revealed that Mr. Zarrab, 34, had pleaded guilty on Oct. 26 in a secret court hearing and became a cooperating government witness in the sanctions case. On Wednesday, asked why he had decided to assist the government, Mr. Zarrab testified during the trial, “Cooperation was the fastest way to accept responsibility and to get out of jail at once.”

The defense’s legal filing came on the fourth day of testimony by Mr. Zarrab, a Turkish-Iranian gold trader who pleaded guilty to helping orchestrate a billion-dollar oil-for-gold scheme in violation of the sanctions. Last week, he testified that in 2012, he paid tens of millions of dollars in bribes to Turkey’s then-foreign minister, Zafer Caglayan, to help with the scheme.

Mr. Zarrab also testified at the trial in Federal District Court in Manhattan that Recep Tayyip Erdogan, then Turkey’s prime minister and now its president, personally ordered that two Turkish banks be allowed to participate in the scheme.

On Monday, Mr. Zarrab testified that he paid bribes to obtain his release after being arrested in December 2013 in an investigation by the Turkish police, and that he soon restarted his sanctions-busting activities.

Jurors in the New York case have been told that corrupt Turkish officials shut down the investigation and organized a purge of the police and prosecutors who ran it. They were also told that Mr. Zarrab had put up bribe money for judges, “so that everything could be made to go away.”

In Turkey, officials remained defiant over the weekend in their attitude toward the case, which has the country abuzz over the allegations of huge bribes and political influence. In a speech to supporters on Saturday, President Erdogan denounced the United States court and repeated accusations that members of the Fethullah Gulen movement, often referred to as FETO, had fabricated the evidence.

“Fake, unreal courts cannot sentence my country,” he told a local party congress in the eastern city of Kars. “Fake, unreal courts constituted with fictitious representatives of the so-called vile FETO can never sentence my country. We serve, others smear.”

Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, followed suit, repeating allegations that followers of Mr. Gulen had infiltrated American diplomatic missions in Turkey and even institutions in the United States. “We tell Americans, to their face: We know how FETO infiltrated American institutions and…

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