Monday, 21 May, 2018

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

US court used 'forged evidence' to jail Turkish banker Atilla sentenced to 32 months in US prison over evading Iran sanctions
Ellis Copeland | 17 May, 2018, 12:56

In a case that strained relations between the United States and Turkey, a judge sentenced a Turkish banker on Wednesday to just over two and a half years in prison, ignoring recommendations that he spend decades behind bars for his role in helping Iran evade USA economic sanctions.

Atilla was convicted on January 3 of conspiring to violate US sanctions laws after a four-week trial in which the defendant testified in his defense. The sentence means Atilla can return to Turkey in about a year.

Atilla's sentencing was postponed twice and previously, prosecutors asked a federal judge to sentence him to at least 15 years in prison and a fine of $50,000- $500,000.

Yet another case comes to further strain the bumpy relations between the US and Turkey.

The case has strained relations between Washington and Ankara, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's spokesman in April calling it "a grave injustice".

The trial, which ended in January, had featured testimony about corruption at the highest levels of the Turkish government.

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According to Reuters, "U.S. prosecutors accused Atilla of joining a plot led by Reza Zarrab, a wealthy Turkish-Iranian gold trader, who U.S. authorities arrested in 2016 and later pleaded guilty to fraud, conspiracy and money laundering charges".

The transactions violated U.S. Sanctions and were disguised as fraudulent gold and food transactions through Halkbank, prosecutors said. His conviction followed a four-week trial in which Atilla testified in his own defense. Berman said a lengthier prison term would be "inappropriate, unreasonable and unfair".

Zarrab, 34, initially pleaded not guilty then chose 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.

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.

Judge Richard Berman handed down the sentence of 32 months in a Manhattan court Wednesday.

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