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Iranian gold stars in Turkish corruption scandal

The CEO of Halkbank, which has been under scrutiny for bypassing US-EU sanctions on Iran, is at the center of bribery and corruption upheaval rattling Turkey.
A labourer works on the gold bars which are going to be melted in a smelter at a plant of gold refiner in Istanbul February 27, 2009. Gold extended gains to session highs in Europe on Friday as risk aversion spurred by worse-than- expected U.S. GDP data lifted the metal from the two-week lows it hit earlier in the day. REUTERS/Osman Orsal   (TURKEY)

It is difficult to predict how the bribery/corruption investigation into several Turkish ministers will end. Although there are those who frame the event as a power struggle between the Fethullah Gulen movement and the government, conspiracy theories expand its dimensions to include the United States and Iran. With the detentions of Suleyman Aslan, CEO of Halkbank, and Riza Sarraf, an Iranian businessman who deals with gold and was originally named Reza Zarrab, the focus is now on the Iran-Halkbank-gold triangle.

The government is looking for US and Israeli hands in the operation because of the use of Halkbank to circumvent the sanctions imposed on Iran. Prosecution sources stress that the investigation is aimed not at Halkbank but its CEO, after a search of his house yielded $4.5 million hidden in shoeboxes. But the arrival in Turkey of David Cohen, the US Treasury's undersecretary of terrorism and financial intelligence, shows the importance of the Sarraf-Halkbank file in the affair.

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