Atilla sentenced to 32 months in U.S. prison over evading Iran sanctions

Atilla sentenced to 32 months in US prison over evading Iran sanctions

A USA judge has sentenced a Turkish banking executive to 32 months in prison after his conviction for evading sanctions on Iran in a case has strained relations between Washington and Ankara.

Mehmet Hakan Atilla was convicted in January for participating in a plot to help Iran spend billions of its oil and gas revenues in other other countries through Halkbank, Turkey's state-controlled bank. Though the prosecution has requested a 15-year jail term, it remains unclear what sentence he will be handed.

Atilla will be free to return to Turkey after serving his sentence.

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.

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.

"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 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.

But the judge decided on a dramatically shorter prison term than the life sentence recommended by US probation authorities and the 20 years urged by prosecutors.

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

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

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

Rocco added that Berman's mercy would illustrate to the Turkish people: "Americans aren't bullies". In addition to implicating Atilla, Zarrab described a vast bribery and corruption scheme that involved millions in payments to government ministers and banking executives, all done with the blessing of Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

A former Erdogan ally turned state enemy, Zarrab tendered an eleventh-hour guilty plea before trial that led to his dramatic testimony in NY.

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

Such testimony could have wide ramifications in Turkey if USA financial regulators slap Halkbank with a fine that can roil the country's economy.

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 USA prosecutors by a disaffected policeman.

Berman has ridiculed those theories in the past, and he said that letters that he received from regular Turkish people expressed confidence in US justice.

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