Judge examines role of Giuliani, US official in Turkey case

AP News
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Posted: Mar 28, 2017 6:00 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — A judge said Tuesday he'll look into what roles ex-New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and a former U.S. attorney general have in the defense of a Turkish businessman charged with helping Iran evade U.S. sanctions.

U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman in Manhattan told lawyers in an order to explain in papers how the roles of Giuliani and former Attorney General Michael Mukasey might differ from those of other defense attorneys.

Prosecutors have urged Berman to ensure there are no conflicts of interest if Giuliani and Mukasey join the defense of Reza Zarrab, who pleaded not guilty after his March 2016 arrest in Miami.

Prosecutors said law firms employing Giuliani and Mukasey have represented bank victims in the case. They also said Giuliani and Mukasey are involved in efforts to resolve the charges.

The New York Times reported Monday that Giuliani and Mukasey traveled to meet Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president, as part of their efforts on Zarrab's behalf.

It is unclear if Giuliani's close relationship with Republican President Donald Trump could affect perceptions of his role in the case. Mukasey's son, Marc Mukasey, has been mentioned as a possible replacement for former Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who was fired earlier this month after he ignored an invitation to resign along with dozens of other U.S. attorneys appointed by Democratic presidents.

Meanwhile, federal prosecutors Tuesday announced a new arrest in the case. They said a Turkish banker was arrested Monday on charges he conspired with Zarrab and others to use the U.S. financial system to conduct transactions on behalf of the government of Iran and other Iranian entities.

In discussing potential conflicts, Berman noted that he had worked in Manhattan federal court as a judge from 1998 to 2006, overlapping with time Michael Mukasey had worked there as one. He also alerted lawyers that he served on Giuliani's mayoral transition team in 1993 and was appointed to the New York State Family Court by then-Mayor Giuliani in 1995. He said he did not believe those prior relationships affect his ability to serve fairly and impartially.