Turkish banker gets 32 months prison in USA case over Iran sanctions

Turkish banker gets 32 months prison in USA case over Iran sanctions

Turkish banker gets 32 months prison in USA case over Iran sanctions

A Turkish banker convicted of helping Iran launder money and cover up a billion-dollar scheme to evade USA sanctions was sentenced Wednesday to 32 months in prison.

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. Though the prosecution has requested a 15-year jail term, it remains unclear what sentence he will be handed.

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

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Monday blasted the USA government for prosecuting Atilla, calling the case "a great injustice" and claiming the US case was based on evidence fabricated by followers Fetullah Gulen, a US -based Muslin cleric who has also been blamed for the failed 2016 Turkish coup attempt.

In the decades after the Iranian hostage crisis, in which 52 Americans were held captive from 1979 to 1981, the United States imposed increasingly stiffer sanctions prohibiting virtually all USA financial dealings with oil-rich Iran, including many bank transactions.

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They said Atilla, who worked as deputy general manager at Halkbank, was involved in a scheme to help Iran spend oil and gas revenues overseas using fraudulent gold and food transactions through Halkbank, violating United States sanctions.

"This is not a case about drugs", Mr. Lockard said.

"It is so serious that everybody is a victim of it", the prosecutor said.

Berman's comments appeared to stun Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Lockard, who had sought a more than 15-year sentence.

Berman said the lengthier prison terms recommended would be "inappropriate, unreasonable and unfair".

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Zarrab is still awaiting sentencing, the Justice Department said. His conviction followed a four-week trial in which Atilla testified in his own defense.

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

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. He is married to Turkish pop star and TV personality Ebru Gundes.

Zarrab, who has yet to be sentenced, said on the witness stand 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.

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.

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And though Turkish bank and government officials were paid millions in bribes, Berman noted Atilla derived no benefit from the scheme.

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