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Turkish Banker Sentenced To 32 Months In Iran Sanctions Case

17 May 2018

U.S. District Judge Richard Berman in Manhattan sentenced Mehmet Hakan Atilla, a Turkish banker at Turkey's state-controlled Halkbank, to 32 months in prison on Wednesday after he was found guilty of taking part in a scheme to help Iran evade U.S. sanctions, according to published reports.

Earlier in 2018, Atilla was convicted of taking part in a scheme to help Iran evade US sanctions.

Under the sentencing, which started in the morning, Atilla's total incarceration is 32 months, with his time served subtracted from that total, meaning he will be free after 18 months.

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. They maintained that Atilla used his position as deputy general manager for global banking at Turkish state bank Halkbank to help build and protect a scheme that enabled billions of dollars in profits from Iranian oil sales to flow through world financial markets since 2011.

Zarrab, who was arrested in the U.S.in 2016 and accused of violating USA sanctions on Iran, pleaded guilty in the case last October and cooperated with prosecutors.

The Turkish government did not immediately comment on the sentencing. Berman said a lengthier prison term would be "inappropriate, unreasonable and unfair".

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

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.

"Victor Rocco, one of Atilla's lawyers, said his client would appeal his conviction, but called the sentence "fair".

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.

The wealthy Zarrab, arrested a year before Atilla, initially attracted considerable attention to the case.

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

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Turkish Banker Sentenced To 32 Months In Iran Sanctions Case