U.S. banker verdict part of 'plots' against Turkey: Erdogan

  • U.S. banker verdict part of 'plots' against Turkey: Erdogan

U.S. banker verdict part of 'plots' against Turkey: Erdogan

A jury in a USA federal court convicted an executive of Turkey's majority state-owned Halkbank on Wednesday for evading sanctions against Iran which is a political attack against his government.

Halk Bank executive Mehmet Atilla, 47, was convicted of five counts, including conspiracy.

He was stoic as the guilty verdicts were read on four conspiracy counts, including conspiracy to defraud the United States, plus one bank fraud count.

Zarrab's testimony detailed a massive money-laundering program that unfolded for years and reached the highest levels of power in Turkey, even President Recep Tayyip Erdogan - who, according to the BBC, allegedly "instructed Turkish banks to participate in the multi-million dollar scheme" in 2012 when he was prime minister.

U.S. District Judge Richard Berman scheduled Atilla to be sentenced on April 11.

Defense attorney Victor Rocco promised to appeal. Atilla's lawyer said his client was merely "a hapless pawn" in those deals, blaming Halkbank's client, Reza Zarrab, instead.

Jurors left court without speaking with reporters.

At the center of the three-week trial was testimony from Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab, who pleaded guilty to charges of violating sanctions and testified for USA prosecutors.

Erdogan's office said he discussed the week-long unrest in Iran during a telephone call with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who thoped the protests would be over "in a few days".

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan had urged US officials to drop the case, but his calls were rejected. In particular, they took steps to protect and hide Zarrab's supply of currency and gold to the Government of Iran, Iranian entities, and SDNs using Turkish Bank-1, and in doing so, shielded Turkish Bank-1 from USA sanctions.

After the verdict, Rocco called Atilla "a victim of some freaky game".

"The reliability and the credibility of the trial have vanished", it said.

"There's something bigger going on here", he added.

Atilla was arrested in March 2017.

Atilla, Zarrab and others used deceptive measures to provide access to global financial networks, including US financial institutions, to the Government of Iran, Iranian entities and entities identified by the Department of the Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control as Specially Designated Nationals (SDNs). Halkbank was also accused of helping to process Zarrab's fictitious invoices, the ones first exposed in the 2014 prosecutor's report.

He was the US government's star witness and testified for almost a week in Atilla's trial.

Korkmaz said he was jailed in retaliation, and eventually fled to the United States, carrying evidence from his investigation with him.

FETO is the organization Ankara believes is behind the failed 2016 coup attempt.

Turkey says the case was based on fabricated evidence and has accused USA court officials of ties to the cleric blamed for a 2016 coup attempt.

"Today, after a full, fair, and open trial, a unanimous jury convicted Hakan Atilla, a senior banker at Halk Bank", said Acting U.S. Attorney Kim.