Turkey dismisses banker's US conviction over Iran sanctions-dodging

Turkey dismisses banker's US conviction over Iran sanctions-dodging
Turkey's foreign ministry has criticised 'US interference' after state bank executive Mehmet Atilla was found guilty in New York of helping Iran evade sanctions, potentially implicating Erdogan in the scheme.
2 min read
04 January, 2018
Turkey's state-owned Halkbank has denied any wrongdoing [Getty]
A Turkish banker has been convicted by a US court of helping Iran to evade sanctions.

But the Turkish foreign ministry has dismissed the verdict of Manhattan federal court as "unjust and unfortunate".

Mehmet Atilla, an executive at Turkey's majority state-owned Halkbank, was found guilty on Wednesday on five out of six counts against him, including bank fraud and conspiracy to violate US sanctions law.

He was cleared of one count of money laundering.

The four-week trial was watched closely in Turkey, particularly after Atilla's former co-defendant, gold trader Reza Zarrab, agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in a plea deal.

Over several days on the witness stand, Zarrab described a multi-billion-dollar gold-for-oil scheme that he said included bribes to Turkish government officials and was carried out with the blessing of the current President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

He implied that Erdogan, then prime minister, knew how he and Atilla bypassed US sanctions on Iran and laundered money from Iranian petroleum sales.

The case angered Erdogan, who described it as a "plot" to undermine Turkey's economy, and soured relations between NATO allies Ankara and Washington.

On Thursday, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said the judgement does not carry any legal value for Turkey and is against international laws.

In comments made on Twitter, Bozdag said the decision was clear evidence the United States, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had cooperated with the network of Fethullah Gulen, blamed by Ankara for masterminding the July 2016 coup attempt.

Meanwhile Turkey's foreign ministry said the verdict was "unjust and unfortunate".

"The US court, in a process carried out by relying on so-called 'evidence', which is fake and open to political exploitation... made an unprecedented interference in Turkey's internal affairs," the statement added.

Erdogan is yet to comment on the decision.

Halkbank, which has denied any wrongdoing, said Atilla had the right to appeal against the decision and said it had not been a party to the US case and noted there had been no financial or administrative decision taken against it by the court.

US prosecutors have criminally charged nine people, though only Zarrab, 34, and Atilla, 47, have been arrested by authorities.

Atilla's sentencing has been scheduled for April 11.

Agencies contributed to this report