Turkish gold trader Reza Zarrab accused of raping NYC cellmate

Detained Azerbaijani businessman Reza Zarrab is surrounded by journalists as he arrives at a police center in Istanbul

(Adds Zarrab testimony) By Brendan Pierson NEW YORK, Dec 5 (Reuters) - A Turkish-Iranian gold trader testifying in the trial of a Turkish banker accused of helping Iran evade US sanctions said on Tuesday that he paid a $45,000 bribe to a USA prison guard to obtain alcohol and use the guard's phone. Reza Zarrab, who has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with USA prosecutors in the case, also said he had complained about Halkbank deputy general manager Mehmet Hakan Atilla to Atilla's former superior on multiple occasions. His testimony likely will win him leniency at sentencing.

Erdogan says the trial is a ploy to distract Turkey while Washington hatches plans to strengthen Syrian Kurdish groups Turkey considers to be terrorists.

In January, Zarrab bragged he had bribed a Bureau of Prisons employee $4,000 so both men would be moved to a wing of the prison with cells that afforded more privacy, Jaber charges.

Zarrab, who recently became a cooperating witness, faced a second day of cross-examination at Atilla's jury trial before U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman. That's why the case is being brought, and that's the only reason.

The defense says Atilla is "not corrupt".

Reza Zarrab sexually assaulted Faouzi Jaber, who pleaded guilty in July to trafficking guns and drugs to FARC revolutionaries in Colombia, while the two were cellmates at the Metropolitan Correctional Center between November 2016 and March 10, 2017, according to Jaber's suit.

Zarrab and eight other people, including Turkey's former economy minister Zafer Caglayan and three Halkbank executives, have been charged with engaging in transactions worth hundreds of millions of dollars for Iran's government and Iranian entities from 2010 to 2015 in a scheme to evade USA sanctions.

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He was removed from federal lockup after he struck a cooperation agreement with federal prosecutors and agreed to take the stand against Turkish banker Hakan Atilla, who is now on trial. The testimony came as Zarrab was cross-examined by one of Atilla's lawyers, Cathy Fleming.

He said he paid the guard $45,000 to provide those items, along with some cold medicine that wasn't sold at the commissary.

In March, Zarrab attacked Jaber with the cucumber, causing bleeding, the suit says.

US authorities arrested Zarrab in March 2016 when he entered the United States with his wife, daughter and four other people for a trip to Disney World.

Zarrab estimated that he made from $100 million to $150 million between 2010 and 2016 by carrying out various illegal schemes, including helping Iran dodge USA sanctions with hundreds of millions of dollars.

Turkish authorities have detained 17 people linked to Zarrab in an investigation launched after he cooperated with USA authorities. He testified that he might be permitted to be released on bail once the trial is finished.

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