By Brendan Pierson
NEW YORK (Reuters) – A U.S. judge on Wednesday ordered that he be given more detail about former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani and another lawyer’s representation of a Turkish gold trader charged with conspiring to violate U.S. sanctions against Iran.
U.S. District Judge Richard Berman in Manhattan said he needed extra information to ensure that conflicts of interest did not prevent Giuliani and former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey from effectively representing Reza Zarrab, who is in U.S. custody.
Zarrab is accused of conspiring to conduct illegal transactions through U.S. banks on behalf of Iran’s government.
Prosecutors said in a court filing last week that eight of the U.S. banks involved in the case were clients of Giuliani or Mukasey’s law firms, and Giuliani’s firm was a registered agent of Turkey, posing potential conflicts.
Benjamin Brafman, an attorney for Zarrab, said at a court hearing on Tuesday that Giuliani and Mukasey were working on a “diplomatic solution” to the case and would not represent Zarrab in court.
Giuliani, who has advised U.S. President Donald Trump, and Mukasey traveled to Turkey in late February to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan about the case. Brafman said Tuesday that Mukasey discussed the trip in advance with U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Zarrab, a dual national of Iran and Turkey, was previously arrested in 2013 in a Turkish corruption probe of people tied to Erdogan, then prime minister of Turkey.
Berman ordered Brafman to meet with Giuliani and Mukasey and submit information on what kind of work they were hired to do for Zarrab, what kind of work their firms had done for the banks and what the firms were doing to avoid conflicts.
The judge ordered Brafman to say whether Zarrab’s legal fees were being paid by someone else, and if so, who.
Berman also ordered Brafman to submit a description of the relationship between Giuliani’s law firm and Turkey, including any involvement by Giuliani himself.
Another hearing is set for April 24.
Brafman had previously argued that Zarrab’s communications with Giuliani and Mukasey were confidential. Brafman declined to comment on Wednesday.
Berman in Wednesday’s order sought to tamp down speculation about the politically charged case.
“It should be noted that, notwithstanding the hyperbole which principally has come from outside the courtroom, the case has progressed professionally and appropriately within the courtroom,” he said.
(Reporting By Brendan Pierson; Editing by Andrew Hay)