A federal judge called Rudy Giuliani’s statements about his work in an Iran sanctions case “disingenuous” at a hearing Tuesday, criticizing the ex-New York City mayor for omitting any mention of Iran altogether.
Giuliani and former U.S. attorney general Michael Mukasey are working on behalf of a Turkish gold trader accused of helping Iran circumvent U.S. sanctions related to its nuclear program. In affidavits filed last month, Giuliani and Mukasey said they were working on extrajudicial resolutions for Reza Zarrab’s legal troubles. Instead of appearing in court, Giuliani and Mukasey said they have met with high-ranking officials in Turkey and the U.S.—including Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan—to work towards a diplomatic resolution.
The affidavits also downplayed the seriousness of the charges facing Zarrab. The criminal complaint against Zarrab accuses him of helping entities that work with the Iran Revolutionary Guards Corps, and other organizations tied to its nuclear program, while the affidavits simply referred to Zarrab’s alleged misdeeds as ones involving “consumer goods.”
“Most respectfully, the Giuliani and Mukasey affidavits appear surprisingly disingenuous in failing to mention the central role of Iran in the indictment,” said Judge Richard Berman, adding that the affidavits omit any mention of Iran altogether.
Such an omission discounts the fact that the charges against Zarrab are serious felonies, Berman said.
Zarrab was charged last year for allegedly using various companies to trade Iran gold for oil and gas, a workaround to evade sanctions related to the nuclear program. While on a trip to Disneyland with his wife and daughter, he was arrested.
Among the other revelations in court was that Giuliani has never even met Zarrab face-to-face. All communications between the men are through “me, or Mr. Mukasey, or Mr. Giuliani’s partner,” said Zarrab’s defense attorney Ben Brafman. “I do not believe there were any direct communications.”
Tuesday’s meeting also addressed potential conflicts of interest between Giuliani and Mukasey, and their legal firms, and the Zarrab case. The firms also represent some of the alleged “victim banks” in the case; Giuliani’s firm is also a registered agent of Turkey.
Giuliani was famously critical of the Iran nuclear deal and Iran’s political system more broadly before taking on this sanctions case mere months after he was considered for top-level jobs in the Trump administration, including Secretary of State.
Zarrab's case has widespread resonance in Turkey, where he was also eyed for a corruption scandal. But Erdogan, who has ties to the Zarrab family, intervened. Zarrab’s case may also shed light on the corruption scandal that captivated Turkey. If the case goes to trial, Zarrab’s ties to high-ranking Turkish government officials may be exposed. Erdogan even took aim at former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara after Zarrab’s arrest, accusing him of being a sympathizer of the exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen. (The Erdogan regimes blames Gulen, who lives in the Poconos, for being behind a failed coup attempt last year.)