Bircan Bali, the host of a magazine show aired on pro-government channel Beyaz TV, alleges that Ebru Gundes, famous Turkish pop-folk singer is expecting a baby.
Gundes is currently married to Reza Zarrab, an Iranian gold-trader who pled guilty to the Iran sanctions-evasion scheme charges at a New York Federal Court and reportedly walking free in the United States, and enrolled in the witness protection program.
Making her claims on live TV, Bali said that the information she has is solid and stems from sources very close to the Turkish celebrity.
Swelling face of Gundes and her recent abdominal bloat were obvious during her concert in Cyprus, and sparked rumors of her pregnancy. However, those rumors were refuted by her manager.
Gundes has reportedly been traveling to New York frequently lately. It was speculated by Turkish magazine outlets that the alleged pregnancy of Gundes occurred as a consequence of these visits, implying she is currently seeing her husband in the U.S.
Who is Ebru Gundes?
Born in 1974, married at the age of 16, Gundes became famous in Turkey when she was 18, with her debut album in 1992 selling over a million and 250 thousand copies according to figures provided by Turkish Phonographic Industry Society (MU-YAP).
Her subsequent albums became also hits and she became a very popular figure, with her face covering billboards all over the megacity of Istanbul.
She released seven more albums after 2001, each time accomplishing average sales as the internet age made it harder to exercise copyright claims.
She appeared on television as a judge for various singing contests, including the Turkish version of “The Voice.”
Aside from Turkey, Gundes is also very popular in Iran, a country with a sizeable Turkic population.
Marrying a lawyer after a divorce from her first husband in 2002, her third marriage in 2010 with Iranian gold-trader Zarrab (Zarrab means goldsmith in Arabic, Persian and Turkish) made the headlines with his wealth and his ostentatious gifts worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The couple had a daughter in 2011 and their life took a different turn after December 17, 2013, as police detained Zarrab for bribing Turkish ministers to evade U.S. sanctions against Iran.
Graft Probe of December 2013 and Aftermath
On the 17th of December 2013, police carried out dawn raids Istanbul, detaining around 52 people including sons of three ministers and business figures close to then prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, (including Reza Zarrab) and searched the headquarters of state-run Halkbank in the capital Ankara.
The accusation was bribing names close to government in exchange for helping Iran avoid the US sanctions.
Erdogan accused the police and judiciary officials involved in the investigation, of attempting to overthrow the elected government. All of the police officers involved were reassigned to other departments in distant regions of Turkey.
One week later an arrest warrant against Erdogan’s son Bilal Erdogan was issued by a public prosecutor, however, it was not enforced by the newly assigned police chiefs due to intervention from the governor of Istanbul.
During the time of her husband’s imprisonment, Gundes was seen shedding tears on an interval of the popular singing contest she was participating in as a judge.
Zarrab was released from prison by the newly assigned judges two months after his arrest and appeared on Turkish TV, claiming his actions helped close the current deficit of the Turkish State.
U.S. vs Zarrab and Today
Despite the cover-up, the case reappeared in a U.S. federal court three years later, with Zarrab detained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as part of a probe lead by US Attorney for the Southern District New York.
Zarrab was detained right after he landed on the U.S. soil for holiday with Gundes and their child in March 2016.
Consequently, he plead guilty of all charges and his testimony against a senior Halkbank official, Hakan Atilla, dealt a serious blow to President Erdogan who defined his vision of Zarrab as “a charitable man,” after the graft probe of December 2013.
Shortly after Zarrab started to testify against Attila, his assets in Turkey were seized by a court order and an arrest warrant was issued for him over an illegal villa restoration. Attila was sentenced to 32 months in prison by Federal Judge in New York.
Gundes decided to file a divorce in October 2016 but later she gave up and purportedly reconciled with Zarrab. Latest rumors of her pregnancy after her frequent visits to New York, together with Bali’s assertion, strengthens the possibility of her relationship’s continuance with Zarrab.
Zarrab was reportedly set free by the U.S. District Court in October 2017, on account of his cooperation with the investigators.
He purportedly implied several high ranking officials of the Turkish government to fulfill his part of the guilty plea deal.
The U.S. authorities make no comment on Zarrab’s current position.
FBI agent Jennifer McReynolds who arrested Atilla and Zarrab, gave a public statement in August 2018 saying: “The implications of this investigation are far from over. Many other co-conspirators are indicted, and have not yet been brought to justice yet.”