November 10, 2016 / 11:04 PM / 3 years ago

U.S. charges Turkish, Iranian nationals with evading Iran sanctions

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Four Turkish and Iranian nationals from the same family have been indicted on charges they violated U.S. sanctions against Iran by conducting hundreds of millions of dollars of transactions for Iran’s government and Iranian metals companies.

According to an indictment made public on Thursday in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, Habibollah Zarei, Nesteren Zarei Deniz, Bora Deniz and Abdullah Evren Erdem conspired to evade U.S. sanctions from 2014 until at least January 2016.

The defendants were accused of helping three Iranian companies import and export large quantities of copper and steel to and from Iran, and arranging for U.S. banks to transfer at least $100 million to further the scheme.

“These defendants conspired and schemed to hide millions of dollars’ of financial transactions specifically to evade U.S. sanctions laws,” and deserve to face “strong legal action,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in Manhattan said in a statement.

All of the defendants are at large. It is unclear whether they have hired lawyers.

Earlier this year, Reza Zarrab, a prominent Turkish gold trader, was arrested and criminally charged in a separate U.S. case for allegedly conspiring to conduct large transactions on behalf of Iran and entities there.

Prosecutors said Zarei, 67, is the father of Zarei Deniz, 39, and father-in-law of both her husband Deniz, 44, and Erdem, 32.

All live in Turkey and are citizens there, while Zarei and Zarei Deniz are also Iranian citizens, prosecutors added.

Each of the four defendants was charged with four conspiracy counts for alleged bank fraud, evading sanctions, money laundering and defrauding the United States. The bank fraud conspiracy charge carries a maximum 30-year prison term.

Papers relating to the case were first filed last December in the Manhattan court.

The case is U.S. v. Deniz et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 15-cr-00833.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by James Dalgleish

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