NEW YORK (AP) — A Turkish businessman shouldn’t be able to use his wealth to avoid having to remain behind bars while he awaits trial on charges he helped Iran evade U.S. sanctions, a federal judge ruled on Thursday.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Richard Berman rejected a bid by Reza Zarrab to instead be confined to a Manhattan apartment with private security paid for by him.
Prosecutors had told the judge Zarrab should remain in jail because his wealth and overseas connections make him a flight risk. His lawyers countered by proposing a $50 million bail package essentially making him a prisoner in his own home.
Under the defense proposal, the Zarrab would have paid for private, around-the-clock security, including video cameras, an alarm system and armed guards. His lawyers said he would even sign a waiver saying the guards could shoot him if he tried to escape.
The judge, in his decision, called the defense’s elaborate home detention proposal “unreasonable” because it raises too many liability issues. He also said it would foster unequal treatment for rich people.
The judge cited an earlier ruling in a separate case that found such conditions would be “contrary to underlying principles of detention and release on bail that individuals otherwise ineligible for release should be able to buy their way out by constructing a private jail, policed by security guards not trained or ultimately accountable to the government, even if carefully selected.”
Zarrab’s attorney Benjamin Brafman said the defense team was “deeply disappointed” with the ruling and would consider an appeal.
He said lawyers were “intent on continuing to vigorously defend Mr. Zarrab, who we believe to be innocent.”
Zarrab, who was arrested earlier this year in Miami, has pleaded not guilty to U.S. charges accusing him of aiding Iran in its deception of the United States and the international banking system from 2010 to 2015, enabling millions of dollars to get through.
Zarrab is well known in Turkey, partly because he’s married to Turkish pop star and TV personality Ebru Gundes. In 2013, he was arrested in a Turkish government corruption case, but the charges were dropped.