Published: Thu, May 17, 2018
Worldwide | By Jermaine Blake

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

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

Atilla, who headed worldwide banking at Turkiye Halk Bankasi AS, remains employed by the bank, according to his lawyers.

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

His crime "appears to have been driven by loyalty to his career, employer Halkbank and to his country", Berman said.

Turkish President Erdogan has said the U.S. 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.

The Turkish banker accused of helping Iran evade US sanctions has been convicted by a jury in NY after a trial that sowed distrust between the two nations. President Donald Trump withdrew the USA from the agreement last week and said the sanctions will be reimposed.

Atilla, who worked as a deputy general manager at Halkbank, has already spent 14 months in jail.

Prosecutors identified Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab as the central figure in the scheme.

The Turkish government has fulminated about Zarrab and Atilla's cases, labeling them an attempted "judicial coup" on Erdogan.

Prosecutors have said that beginning around 2012, Atilla was involved in a scheme to help Iran spend oil and gas revenues overseas using fraudulent gold and food transactions through Halkbank, violating USA sanctions.

Atilla sentenced to 32 months in US prison over evading Iran sanctions
Turkish banker sentenced for 32 months for role in scheme to help Iran avoid US sanctions

But the judge decided on a dramatically shorter prison term than the life sentence recommended by USA probation authorities and the 20 years urged by prosecutors. Atilla, by contrast, wasn't named as a defendant until nearly a year after the indictment was unsealed.

The wealthy Zarrab, arrested a year before Atilla, initially attracted considerable attention to the case.

Alsan, who has been indicted for more than a year, remains at large. A jury convicted Atilla of five counts, including conspiracy, but acquitted him of one money-laundering charge.

Berman said a lengthier prison term would be "inappropriate, unreasonable and unfair". "I hope it doesn't yield a result that will completely destroy Turkish-US relations", he added.

The ministry accused the US court of taking false evidence and statements fabricated by supporters of Fethullah Gülen, the leader of the Gülensit terror Group (FETÖ) accused of orchestrating a failed coup in 2016, and said Atilla had been sentenced despite being innocent.

Lockard said the sanctions-busting scheme was "monumental in scope and momentous in timing" given the negotiations aimed at curtailing the nuclear aims of a state sponsor of terrorism and preventing a Middle East nuclear arms race.

But Berman cited trial testimony that showed Atilla at times didn't have full knowledge of the sanctions-evasion plan, and on another occasion had "thrown a wrench into the deal" and interfered with it.

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".

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