Turkish Banker in Iran Sanctions-Busting Case Sentenced to 32 Months

Atilla sentenced to 32 months in US prison over evading Iran sanctions

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.

In January, a federal jury found Mehmet Hakan Atilla guilty of bank fraud, sanctions evasion and other crimes.

Prosecutors maintained that Atilla used his position as Halkbank's deputy general manager for worldwide banking 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.

"I intend to impose a sentence here of 32 months of incarceration with credit for time already served", Berman announced of the sentence, which fell below the defense's calculations of sentencing guidelines of 46-57 months in prison. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned the trial as a "chain of serious plots" against his government.

Mehmet Atilla, right, testifies on December 15, 2017, during his trial on corruption charges in NY. With this sentence, Atilla will be able to go back to Turkey next year.

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.

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Zarrab testified that he paid over $50 million in bribes to Turkey's finance minister to help the sanctions-busting scheme flourish after he initially encountered resistance from a Halkbank executive who feared he was "too popular" to carry out trades involving Iranian money without drawing attention to them.

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

Aware of the implications of the ruling for the national security and bilateral relations, the judge said the US government's position is the deterrence to keep other banks from violating sanctions.

"What we need to show the world in proceedings such as this, especially today, especially now, is that we Americans aren't bullies", he said.

Prosecutors had sought a sentence of about 20 years for Atilla, who worked as a deputy general manager at Halkbank. He demanded Atilla be sent to his family and his country.

Watched intensely from NY to Istanbul, the proceedings ended with a likewise extraordinary 32-month sentence, a prison term lower than what prosecutors or even defense attorneys requested.

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