US Court Sentences Turkish Banker in Iran Sanctions Case

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

"This is the biggest sanctions-evasion case prosecuted in the United States that we're aware of", Lockard said, sounding dispirited by the judge's opening remarks.

The case has strained diplomatic relations between the USA and Turkey, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has condemned it as a political attack on his government.

With ties between the USA and Turkey strained, and today's sentencing likely to compound this, expect Moscow to deepen the rift by seeking closer engagement with Ankara.

Atilla, a 47-year-old Turkish citizen, was sentenced by US District Judge Richard Berman in Manhattan.

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.

But the prosecutor's strong words did not match a voice and demeanor that were otherwise listless, and with good reason.

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

In a 75-page petition to the court, Atilla's lawyers asked the judge for a "fair and merciful" sentence of between four to five years, more than the under-three-year sentence given Wednesday.

He said Atilla gave false testimony under oath at trial and cited a number of examples in which the banker did not provide accurate information.

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.

Rocco added that Berman's mercy would illustrate to the Turkish people: "Americans aren't bullies".

Far away from his wife, son and aging parents, Atilla pleaded for a quick return to his family. They said prosecutors were unable to prove Atilla had any connection to Zarrab's crimes.

A former Erdogan ally turned state enemy, Zarrab tendered an eleventh-hour guilty plea before trial that led to his dramatic testimony in NY.

He offered a detailed assessment for why reached such a verdict against the banker who stood at the trial as the only defendant while other key figures such as former Turkish Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan and Halkbank's former CEO Suleyman Aslan, were absent.

Such testimony could have wide ramifications in Turkey if US financial regulators slap Halkbank with a fine that can roil the country's economy.

"I hope it doesn't yield a result that will completely destroy Turkish-U.S. relations", Mr. Erdogan told Bloomberg.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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