Turkey allegedly bought Israeli electronics, sold it to Iran
In contravention of UN Security Council resolution, Turkey said to have sold electronic capacitors to Iran that may be used in its nuclear program; equipment made by Jerusalem-based Israeli company that made sale to Turkey unawares; UN opens investigation, asks Israel to do same; manufacturer: 'If shipment found its way to Iran, Turkish buyer misled us.'
The UN also contacted Israel seeking it open its own inquiry into the matter, after it was discovered the equipment sold by Turkey to Iran was manufactured by a Jerusalem-based Israeli company, considered a major manufacturer of electronic capacitors.
The Security Council resolution in question is resolution number 2231 from 2015, which forbids the sale of products and technologies related to nuclear development.
The government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) led to the investigation being opened, after it intercepted a shipment of electronics sent by Turkey to Iran in July, 2017. The UAE's security apparatus noticed the shipment contained the aforementioned capacitors.
In a written missive sent to Israel, the UN's Secretariat noted that the electronic items were made by an Israeli company called Celem Power Capacitors, headquartered in Jerusalem. The Secretariat then asked Israel to look into the matter as well.
The contraband shipment contained CSP 180/300 model capacitors manufactured by the Israeli company. "We'll be grateful if your government can provide pertinent information on the matter forthwith," the Secretariat's letter said.
The Secretariat is the body tasked with investigating possible violations of Security Council resolutions.
Celem Power Capacitors is one of Israel's largest electronic capacitors manufacturer. Company officials were completely taken aback by the international body's appeal Wednesday, commenting to say that they had indeed sold a shipment of said equipment to a Turkish company after ascertaining its trustworthiness and receiving the payment upfront.
The company further maintained that it had no notion of the capacitors being sent on to Iran. "We will cooperate with any inquiry," Celem's statement said. "We'll prove we sold them to an orderly Turkish company. We don't do business with enemy states."
"While most of our sales are to Europe and the US, Turkey is not an enemy state and there's no reason not to trade with it. In any event, if the shipment did find its way to Iran, the Turkish buyer misled us," the statement concluded.
This alleged infraction was not the first time Turkey was charged with assisting Iran in circumventing nuclear sanctions. Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab, 34, was arrested by the US in March 2016.
Zarrab, married to a well-known Turkish pop star, was arrested by the FBI on suspicion of being involved in violating international sanctions and money laundering.
He was arrested along with Mehmet Hakan Atilla, 47, deputy chief executive of the state-owned Turkish Halkbank, who US prosecution said was also involved in the affair.
Zarrab confessed in a US court to the charges against him and consented to cooperate with American authorities. In effect he became a state's witness and testified against Atilla and seven other suspects—all senior officials in the Turkish government and banking system.
Apart from Zarrab and Atilla, the remaining suspects are not detained in the US. Among those charged were former Turkish economy minister Zafer Çağlayan, accused of receiving a 50 million euro bribe from Zarrab.
Iran routinely sells gas to Turkey, but due to the international embargo levied on it the latter country is not allowed to pay cash, and the money was therefore deposited at Halkbank.
The FBI's investigation turned up that Zarrab had assisted the Iranians in circumventing the embargo by creating shell companies to make fictitious purchases for Iran, and then used the fictitious invoices to withdraw funds from the Halkbank account—then transferring them to Iran itself.
The investigation also alleged that Zarrab provided Iran with gold bullion to go around the embargo. Furthermore, Zarrab testified that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan knew about the entire thing and even signed off on it.
Assistant US Attorney David William Denton said in court, "Atilla and his lies filled a critical role in allowing Iran access to US dollars and American banks. Iran didn't need soldiers—it needed banks."
Erdoğan was infuriated with the American-led investigation at the time, claiming it was a conspiracy to cripple his country's economy.
Moreover, NBC News reported previously that Special Counsel Robert Mueller—investing the Trump administration's ties to Russia—examined whether Erdoğan had offered Michael Flynn, former national security adviser to US President Donald Trump, 15 million dollars to extradite Erdoğan's chief political opponent cleric Fethullah Gülen—currently living in self-imposed exile in the US—to Turkey.
Mueller was also said to have examined whether Erdoğan contacted Flynn to have the charges against Zarrab dropped.