Turkish banker in Iran sanctions case faces sentencing

Turkish banker Atilla gets lenient 32-months prison for Iran sanctions-busting

Turkish banker in Iran sanctions case faces sentencing

Mehmet Hakan Atilla, 47, deputy chief executive of Turkish lender Halkbank, was convicted by a NY jury on January 3 on five counts of bank fraud and conspiracy. "As of now, apart from my family, I have no other priorities".

Prosecutors maintained that Atilla used his position as Halkbank's deputy general manager for global banking to help build and protect a scheme that enabled billions of dollars in profits from Iranian oil sales to flow through world financial markets since 2011. As a result of this scheme, he and his co-conspirators caused US banks to unknowingly process transactions on behalf of the Iranian government, the Justice Department said.

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. As much as $4 billion was laundered, with $1 billion converted into US dollars and moved through banks in NY, according to prosecutors.

Zarrab, who has yet to be sentenced, said on the witness stand 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.

There was no immediate response to the sentencing from the Turkish government or Halkbank. Atilla, by contrast, wasn't named as a defendant until nearly a year after the indictment was unsealed.

That means Atilla will spend roughly a year and a half more in prison, after deducting time the 47-year-old already served at New York's Metropolitan Correctional Center since his arrest last year. A jury convicted Atilla of five counts, including conspiracy, but acquitted him of one money-laundering charge.

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Nine defendants have been charged in the case, but most of the others reside in Turkey and remain at large. He was convicted in January and plans to appeal.

Berman said the lengthier prison terms recommended would be "inappropriate, unreasonable and unfair".

Some of the evidence in the case came from an investigation conducted by Turkish police that was quashed by Erdogan's administration but subsequently provided to US prosecutors by a disaffected policeman.

During trial past year, prosecutors labeled Atilla an "architect" of two schemes to accomplish this. He noted that the evasion strengthened Iran's hand during negotiations over the agreement to contain Iran's nuclear program.

"This is not a case about drugs", Mr. Lockard said.

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

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

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