Saturday, 18 August, 2018

Mehmet Hakan Atilla gets 32-month sentence in Iran sanctions case

Atilla sentenced to 32 months in US prison over evading Iran sanctions Turkish Banker Gets 32 Months in Prison Following Iranian-Sanctions Conviction
Deanna Wagner | 17 May, 2018, 04:10

Atilla, a 47-year-old Turkish citizen, was sentenced by US District Judge Richard Berman in Manhattan. And he noted that Mr. Zarrab had given "credible" and "largely unrefuted" testimony at Mr. Atilla's trial about how the conspirators had been able to "transfer or free up millions upon millions of dollars of Iranian proceeds, primarily from the sale of Iranian oil", in violation of the sanctions.

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

The transactions violated U.S. Sanctions and were disguised as fraudulent gold and food transactions through Halkbank, prosecutors said.

Atilla has already served 14 months in prison since his arrest last year during a business trip to New York.That time will be credited toward his sentence, allowing him to return to Turkey in about a year.

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

Atilla was convicted of five counts including conspiracy to launder money and sanctions evasion. Indeed, the US-based prosecution has alleged that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan greenlighted the evasion scheme, which has prompted Erdogan to hit back with accusations that Washington is hatching a plot to undermine his country's reputation.

"Today is the first day of the holy month of Ramadan", Atilla wrote in prepared remarks read by attorney Cathy Fleming.

"Now apart from my family, I have no other priorities", he said.

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Under the US sanctions, proceeds from Iran's global 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.

Atilla's lawyers had sought a sentence "dramatically below" the 46- to 57-month term they said was recommended under federal guidelines.

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

Atilla was arrested in NY in March 2017, a year after Zarrab's arrest in Florida.

The case has strained diplomatic relations between the United States and Turkey.

There was no immediate response to the sentencing from the Turkish government or Halkbank.

Zarrab, 34, initially pleaded not guilty then decided to make a deal, 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. Berman quickly rejected that, saying it wouldn't be "fair, appropriate or reasonable".

On the witness stand, Zarrab said he bribed Turkish officials.