NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. prosecutors urged a judge Friday to scrutinize the ramifications of a meeting former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and an ex-U.S. attorney general had with Turkey's president, saying the men were seeking a "critical" role in resolving charges that a Turkish man helped Iran evade U.S. sanctions without any plans to meet with prosecutors.
A defense attorney later filed a letter accusing prosecutors of trying to sabotage the effort to resolve the case against businessman Reza Zarrab outside of court.
The prosecutors wrote in a letter to a judge presiding over the Zarrab case that they find it "curious" that Giuliani and former Attorney General Michael Mukasey hope to negotiate a disposition of criminal charges without engaging prosecutors. They also said Giuliani and Mukasey had informed prosecutors that they "had sought to meet other officials in the U.S. government outside of this office to discuss a potential disposition of this case."
Prosecutors noted that Giuliani's law firm, Greenberg Traurig LLP, is a registered agent of the Republic of Turkey. They included a link to a document showing that the firm has reported to the Justice Department that it is providing counsel "in connection with strengthening the Turkish-American relationship" and educating government officials on issues of importance to Turkey.
A day earlier, defense attorney Benjamin Brafman told U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman in a letter that Zarrab had hired Giuliani and Mukasey, but there was no need to further study the issue for potential conflicts of interest because neither of the lawyers planned to appear in court.
Brafman said their work "may impact the prosecution, but it has not, and whether it will is a matter of speculation."
After the government filing Friday, Brafman responded in another letter to the judge that the government is not entitled to know what Giuliani and Mukasey are trying to do to assist Zarrab.
"That information quite frankly is none of the government's business," Brafman wrote. He said Giuliani and Mukasey did more than required by notifying then-U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and Attorney General Jeff Sessions that they were going to Turkey before they met last month with Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
He said the government was not really trying to ensure there were no conflicts of interest but rather hoped "to attract media attention in the hope of undermining the efforts of counsel to structure a resolution to this case without the direct involvement" of prosecutors.
Brafman added: "If the government has the temerity to even intimate that Messrs. Giuliani or Mukasey are engaging in any inappropriate conduct then let them come out and say it."
Giuliani was one of Donald Trump's most prominent advocates during his successful Republican presidential campaign last year. Mukasey's son, Marc Mukasey, has been mentioned as a candidate for U.S. attorney in Manhattan.
The Iranian-born Zarrab, 33, of Istanbul, Turkey, is charged with conspiring to process hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of financial transactions for Iranian businesses or Iran's government between 2010 and 2015. Authorities say those transactions are banned by U.S. and international sanctions.
Prosecutors say Zarrab and two others used a network of companies in Iran, Turkey and elsewhere to launder the proceeds and defraud several financial institutions, including U.S. banks, by concealing the true nature of the financial moves. Zarrab is a well-known personality in Turkey partly because he's married to Turkish pop star and TV personality Ebru Gundes.