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Turkish banker sentenced to 32 months in USA prison for sanction evasion

17 May, 2018, 05:07 | Author: Lucille Rivera
  • Atilla sentenced to 32 months in US prison over evading Iran sanctions

Former official at Turkey's Halkbank to serve 32 months in prison after conviction for helping Iran evade USA sanctions.

USA prosecutors accused Atilla, 47, of working with a Turkish-Iranian gold trader from 2010 to 2015 to help Iran evade sanctions by disguising the oil sales as fraudulent gold trades and food-aid transactions.

Zarrab and others schemed to get Iran's money out of the bank by disguising transactions as legitimate gold trades or food shipments, moving funds to different accounts within Halkbank and then wiring it out of the country, where it could be used to make payments on Iran's behalf.

Zarrab, 34, initially pleaded not guilty then flipped, becoming a United States government witness after admitting being involved in the multi-billion-dollar gold-for-oil scheme to subvert USA economic sanctions against Iran.

Turkey's Foreign Ministry said Atilla's sentencing was not legitimate or credible due to what it said was false evidence and statements fabricated by supporters of US -based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of orchestrating a failed coup in 2016.

Zarrab, who has yet to be sentenced, testified during Atilla's trial that he bribed Turkish officials, and that Erdogan personally signed off on parts of the scheme while serving as Turkey's prime minister.

Atilla appeared to be a marginal figure in the case.

The trial, which ended in January, had featured testimony about corruption at the highest levels of the Turkish government. Atilla, by contrast, wasn't named as a defendant until nearly a year after the indictment was unsealed.

Image Mehmet Hakan Atilla testifies during his trial on corruption charges
Mehmet Hakan Atilla testifies during his trial on corruption charges in New York on Dec. 15

Mr. Atilla will be credited with the time he has spent in jail since his March 2017 arrest.

Alsan, who has been indicted for more than a year, remains at large.

Atilla's lawyers had sought a sentence "dramatically below" the 46- to 57-month term they said was recommended under federal guidelines. Berman quickly rejected that, saying it wouldn't be "fair, appropriate or reasonable". "I hope it doesn't yield a result that will completely destroy Turkish-US relations", he added. The sentence means Atilla can return to Turkey in about a year. He noted that the evasion strengthened Iran's hand during negotiations over the agreement to contain Iran's nuclear program.

"This is a case about nuclear capability by the world's biggest state sponsor of terrorism", Lockard said.

Judge Berman did not contest the gravity of the sanctions evasion plot.

Cathy Fleming, another of Atilla's lawyers, read a brief statement by her client, translated from Turkish, asking for Berman's "understanding of the situation that I and my family are in".

The case is U.S. v. Atilla, 15-cr-867, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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