Global News

Turkish Banker Gets 32 Months in Prison Following Iranian-Sanctions Conviction

Turkish Banker Gets 32 Months in Prison Following Iranian-Sanctions Conviction

In a case that strained relations between the United States and Turkey, a judge sentenced a Turkish banker on Wednesday to just over two and a half years in prison, ignoring recommendations that he spend decades behind bars for his role in helping Iran evade US economic sanctions.

The prosecutors had called for a 20-year sentence, but U.S. District Judge Richard Berman said the scheme was most likely engineered by people far more powerful than Atilla.

Turkish President Erdogan has said the United States case was based on evidence fabricated by followers of US-based preacher Fetullah Gulen, who Ankara also accuses of carrying out the failed 2016 coup attempt.

Those included Turkish government officials and Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab, who pleaded guilty and testified against Atilla.

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

"Atilla appears to have been a person doing his job, sometimes reluctantly or hesitatingly, under the direction of the Halkbank general manager Mr. Aslan, who did take bribes", Berman said.

The time he spent behind bars will be deducted from the total sentence, meaning he will be free after 18 months. In addition to Zarrab, evidence showed the deep involvement of Halkbank's chief executive at the time, Suleyman Aslan, and other executives and government officials. The bank has previously said that all of its transactions have been lawful.

"We appreciate the thought and comprehensiveness of the judge's sentence", Rocco said.

'Replace EVMs with paper ballot'
Counting of votes began at 8 a.m. for 222 out of 224 assembly constituencies in 58,546 polling stations in the state. A total of 2,654 candidates, including 216 women candidates were in the fray for the Assembly Elections this year.

"What we need to show the world in proceedings such as this, especially today, especially now, is that we Americans aren't bullies", he said.

"If Hakan Atilla is going to be declared a criminal, that would be nearly equivalent to declaring the Turkish Republic a criminal", he said.

Atilla was found guilty on 3 January of conspiring to violate U.S. sanctions law.

The judge said Atilla falsely testified at his trial on some matters but was unlikely to commit any new crimes, earned no profits directly from the fraud and had a role in the multi-year scheme that was less than many others.

Under the USA sanctions, proceeds from Iran's worldwide oil sales were required to be deposited at a handful of major banks, including Halkbank, and could only be used under limited circumstances, such as for humanitarian aid.

Zarrab, who is yet to be sentenced, testified for several days as the USA government's star witness against Atilla.

Erdogan has said that the USA case was based on evidence fabricated by followers of US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom he has also blamed for a failed 2016 coup attempt.

On Tuesday, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told Bloomberg that Atilla was "definitely innocent".


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