Former Turkish banker gets 32 months in prison

Elias Hubbard
May 17, 2018

A federal judge sentenced a Turkish banker to 32 months in prison Wednesday for his role in a scheme to help Iran avoid US sanctions, the Justice Department announced.

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

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

A Turkish banker was sentenced on Wednesday to 32 months in a U.S. prison for plotting to help Iran evade American sanctions, in an explosive case straining ties between Ankara and Washington. His conviction followed a four-week trial in which Atilla testified in his own defence. A jury convicted Atilla of five counts, including conspiracy, but acquitted him of one money-laundering charge.

That means Atilla will spend roughly a year and a half more in prison, after deducting time the 47-year-old already served at New York's Metropolitan Correctional Center since his arrest last year.

The case has strained already tense relations between Turkey and the U.S. Erdogan told Bloomberg that "if Hakan Atilla is going to be declared a criminal, that would be nearly equivalent to declaring the Turkish Republic a criminal". The defense, in contrary, expected between 46 and 57 months. Though the prosecution has requested a 15-year jail term, it remains unclear what sentence he will be handed. The sanctions-evasion case, the prosecutor said, was one of the biggest in the US history.

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.

Lawyers for Atilla said they would nonetheless appeal.

The judge said there will be no supervised release and Atilla would be able to go back to his country after completing his sentence.

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

The judge said he thought that a life sentence would not be appropriate.

Today's sentencing will further fracture the already shaky US-Turkey relationship.

Zarrab hired a platoon of high-priced lawyers including former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani to try to work out a deal between Erdogan, who was anxious to avoid the embarrassment of a trial, and the Trump administration.

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.

In testimony that made a big splash in Turkey, Zarrab said he made $100 million to $150 million from the scheme and detailed corruption implicating Erdogan and his ministers, while Atilla's lawyers said he was a "pawn" being used to stage a show trial in absentia of Erdogan's government.

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

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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