Turkish banker gets 32 months prison in United States case over Iran sanctions

Turkish banker gets 32 months prison in United States case over Iran sanctions

A former Turkish banker convicted of violating US sanctions on Iran was sentenced in NY on Wednesday to 32 months in prison.

In January, Atilla was found guilty of five counts of conspiracy and bank fraud.

Zarrab, 34, initially pleaded not guilty then decided to make a deal, becoming a USA government witness after admitting being involved in the multi-billion-dollar gold-for-oil scheme to subvert United States economic sanctions against Iran.

He offered a detailed assessment for why reached such a verdict against the banker who stood at the trial as the only defendant while other key figures such as former Turkish Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan and Halkbank's former CEO Suleyman Aslan, were absent. His conviction followed a four-week trial in which Atilla testified in his own defence. The jury absolved him of money laundering charge.

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. 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.

However, prosecutors on Wednesday noted that the government did not seek a 105-year sentence, or a life sentence for Atilla, adding that it recommended a sentence of about 20 years, some 80 years below guidelines.

On Wednesday, Judge Berman said he intends to impose a sentence of 32 months of incarceration with credit for the time already served.

"This is a case about nuclear capability by the world's biggest state sponsor of terrorism", Lockard said. "If Hakan Atilla is going to be declared a criminal, that would be nearly equivalent to declaring the Turkish Republic a criminal".

Lawyers for Atilla said they would nonetheless appeal.

Turkish banker gets 32 months prison in United States case over Iran sanctions
Turkish banker gets 32 months prison in United States case over Iran sanctions

By then, Judge Berman already had rejected the prosecution's depiction of Atilla's role and revealed that his sentence would be "appropriately lenient".

Berman's remarks echoed arguments that Atilla's defense attorney Victor Rocco made throughout last year's trial.

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

Prosecutor Michael D. Lockard, however, pushed for a long sentence and stated that Atilla's expertise helped the scheme to succeed on a massive scale.

Zarrab, who has yet to be sentenced, testified 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.

His conviction hinged on the testimony of Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab, who was arrested by U.S. authorities in 2016 after getting to Florida with his wife and child on a family holiday to Disney World.

"Apart from my family, I have no other priorities", the statement said.

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

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