– By Christian Berthelsen – Bloomberg –  Zarrab no longer in prison system but still in U.S. custody –  Is he cooperating and what does he know of Erdogan’s regime? 19 Nov 2017

Turkey wants him freed. A few in President Trump’s sphere have pushed for a deal. Even so, he’s scheduled to go on trial in New York on Monday.A wealthy Turkish-Iranian gold trader who had an office in Trump Towers Istanbul, Reza Zarrab stands accused of helping Iran evade U.S. sanctions and bribing senior Turkish officials and bank executives. Anticipation is building from Istanbul to Washington about possible revelations in a case shrouded in mystery and stocked with surprises. 

Right now, though, there is a simpler question: Where is Zarrab?

Jailed in grim New York City lockups last year after U.S. authorities seized him en route to a family vacation at Disney World, he is no longer behind bars there. Last week, the inmate registry for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons suddenly said Zarrab had been released. Two people familiar with the case said Zarrab remains in U.S. custody but not in a federal jail. That sometimes happens when a defendant has agreed to serve as a government witness. A lawyer for Zarrab’s accused accomplice has said Zarrab is no longer participating in the defense. Prosecutors and Zarrab’s lawyers have declined to comment.Has Zarrab decided to cooperate with U.S. prosecutors and tell what he knows about alleged corruption at the highest reaches of the Turkish government? Even the Turkish government is curious, recently asking the U.S. government whether Zarrab is safe.

At least publicly, there were no answers. During the final hearing Thursday before jury selection begins on Nov. 20, Zarrab and his lawyers were not present, and repeated references were made to his absence. At the hearing’s conclusion, Victor Rocco, the lawyer for Zarrab’s co-defendant, Mehmet Hakan Atilla, tossed up his hands and in a loud voice asked the judge if Zarrab would be on trial as well.Smiling, the judge declined to answer and told Rocco to watch the court docket.

Turkish Billionaire

Zarrab, 34, lived a gilded life in Turkey, with a private plane, a yacht, a waterside mansion in Istanbul and a Turkish pop-star wife. He’s accused of using his network of companies to move money through the U.S. financial system on behalf of Iran and related companies, to help them evade sanctions when the U.S. was stepping up economic pressure on the country in retaliation for its nuclear ambition.