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United States jury finds Turkish banker guilty of helping Iran dodge sanctions

United States jury finds Turkish banker guilty of helping Iran dodge sanctions

The federal trial hinged on the testimony of well-connected Turkish-Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab, who became a government witness after admitting his involvement in the multi-billion-dollar gold-for-oil scheme to subvert United States economic sanctions against Iran.

"The judge presiding over this trial was two years ago hosted in Turkey by a FETO institution", Kalin claimed, using a Turkish acronym for the Gulen movement that Erdogan's administration uses for its one-time ally and current opponent. "But you can't do both", acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon Kim said.

Seven other people have been charged, but only Atilla and Zarrab were in USA custody. USA prosecutors charged him with helping to facilitate a deal in which Iran traded oil and gas for gold, moving some of the transactions through US banks without their knowledge. His lawyers said they plan to appeal the verdict.

Atilla testified in his own defense, repeatedly and forcefully denying a role in the operation which Zarrab laid out to the jury and stating he was unaware Halkbank was violating sanctions. "We are against foreign interventions in Iran", Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said, noting that "if the leadership is to change in Iran, the Iranian people will do this".

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Prosecutors said Atilla, 47, participated in a scheme to launder $1 billion of Iranian oil and gas revenue through US banks in violation of USA sanctions, saying he conspired with trader Reza Zarrab, 34, by using fraudulent gold and food transactions. He was found not guilty of money laundering.

Mehmet Hakan Atilla, a former banking executive in Turkey whose co-defendant in an Iran sanctions-busting case became the star witness against him, has been found guilty of five of six counts after a roughly monthlong trial. This sanctions regime prohibits, among other things, financial transactions involving the United States or United States persons that were intended for the Government of Iran or Iranian entities.

"I am saddened to say this, but this is how it will be from now on", Erdogan told a news conference before his departure to France for an official visit. Halkbank has denied any wrongdoing and said that its transactions were in line with local and worldwide regulations. The bank fraud counts each carry a maximum term of imprisonment of 30 years.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael D. Lockard, Sidhardha Kamaraju and David W. Denton, Jr., and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Dean Sovolos of the Southern District of NY are in charge of the prosecution, with assistance from Deputy Chief Elizabeth Cannon and Trial Attorney David Recker of the National Security Division's Counterintelligence and Export Control Section. He will be sentenced in April and faces potentially decades of jail time.


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