How Iran Used an International Playboy to Launder Oil Money

Credit: OCCRP
Published: April 27, 2021

The Republic of Iran had a problem throughout the 2010s: How to sell oil to countries like China that didn’t want to flout U.S. and EU sanctions aimed at Iran’s nuclear program.

It was a problem solved in part by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a state bank, and a money launderer, Reza Zarrab.

Though he worked in the shadows, Zarrab’s extravagant lifestyle made him famous in Istanbul, where he was known as “The Turkish Gatsby.” His 2016 arrest in Miami established him as the star witness in what became the long-running prosecution of Halkbank, Turkey’s leading state-owned bank.

On May 3, Halkbank – and by extension the Erdoğan regime – goes on trial in New York City, accused of helping Iran evade sanctions.

For more than a year, a group of journalists led by OCCRP analyzed nearly 750,000 documents and transaction records used in Zarrab’s U.S. prosecution, as well as Suspicious Activity Reports that became part of the 2020 FinCEN Files investigation. Read on to learn what we found.


Frequently Asked Questions: Who Is Reza Zarrab?

Reza Zarrab is one of the most notorious international money launderers of the last few decades. Here's everything you need to know about how and why his operations took on such geopolitical significance.

27 April 2021 Read the article

'The Government Is In on It': An Insider’s Account of the Reza Zarrab Conspiracy

The roots of Reza Zarrab’s work on behalf of Iran go far deeper than has ever been revealed, his co-conspirator told OCCRP in a series of exclusive interviews.

20 September 2020 Read the article

The Quiet Man in Stockholm Who Laundered China’s Oil Money for Iran

With attention focused on Zarrab and his Turkish co-conspirators, another network — operated by a man living in Stockholm — flew under the radar even as it helped sell sanctioned Iranian oil to China.

24 August 2020Read the article

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