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

Turkish banker to be sentenced in US court straining relations

Calling the Turkish banker a "cog in the machine" of sanctions evasion, a USA federal judge sentenced Halkbank manager Hakan Atilla on Wednesday to prison term of less than three years for helping launder billions to Iran.

He was found guilty by the Jury on January 3 on charges of conspiracy to violate sanctions against Iran, conspiracy to defraud the us, bank fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud and money laundering conspiracy.

Mehmet Hakan Atilla, a senior executive at state-run Halkbank in Turkey, faced charges of co-conspiring along with Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab to bust US sanctions through a complex scheme at the bank.

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.

The case began in 2016 when Zarrab, a wealthy Turkish celebrity, was unexpectedly arrested at Disney World and charged with helping Iran evade sanctions through elaborate schemes to launder Iranian oil money in complex gold and food deals.

The case has strained diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Turkey, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has condemned it as a political attack on his government.

On Wednesday, Judge Berman said he intends to impose a sentence of 32 months of incarceration with credit for the time already served. Atilla was arrested months later on a trip to the U.S.

During trial a year ago, prosecutors labeled Atilla an "architect" of two schemes to accomplish this.

"This is the biggest sanction evasion prosecution in the United States that we're aware of", said Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Lockard.

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Watched intensely from NY to Istanbul, the proceedings ended with a likewise extraordinary 32-month sentence, a prison term lower than what prosecutors or even defense attorneys requested.

In a 75-page petition to the court, Atilla's lawyers asked the judge for a "fair and merciful" sentence of between four to five years, more than the under-three-year sentence given Wednesday.

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

"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. Then, weeks before trial a year ago, he agreed to cooperate.

"We appreciate the thought and comprehensiveness of the judge's sentence", Rocco said. He demanded Atilla be sent to his family and his country. Zarrab who became a witness in the trial accepted that he bribed Aslan and other senior officials.

Far away from his wife, son and aging parents, Atilla pleaded for a quick return to his family.

A month later, a NY judge turned down a request by Atilla to acquit him of all charges due to lack of evidence, saying there was "sufficient evidence" to support the charges. "I ask you to understand the position I and my family are in", he said.

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

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