Turkish banker proved his innocence at US court: Erdoğan

Turkish banker proved his innocence at US court: Erdoğan

ANKARA
Turkish banker proved his innocence at US court: Erdoğan

An ongoing court case in the United States has already proven former Turkish banker Hakan Atilla innocent on charges of violating U.S. sanctions on Iran, but the jury has difficulty in issuing its verdict, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said, reiterating Ankara’s expectation that the defendant will plead not guilty.

“I am of the opinion that they have also realized that Atilla is not guilty. I also think that the jury has also seen it. But the jury seems to be in difficulty in issuing its decision because of a kind of uncertainty,” Erdoğan told reporters travelling with him on his way back from an Africa tour on Dec. 27.

Erdoğan said the jury in the New York trial will continue deliberations on Jan. 3 before announcing its verdict on the case with hopes that Atilla, the former executive at Turkey’s majority state-owned Halkbank, will plead not guilty.

The case in New York focuses on Halkbank’s role in evading U.S. sanctions on Iran through billions of dollars’ worth of gold-for-oil trade that has long been mediated by Turkish-Iranian businessman Reza Sarrab.

Charged with money laundering, bank fraud and conspiring to violate the U.S. sanctions against Iran, Atilla has become the sole defendant at the court after Zarrab cooperated with U.S. prosecutors and testified about his operations in Turkey in the early 2010s. He was arrested by U.S. law enforcement in March 2016 in Miami.

“Our expectation is that justice will be served. Halkbank and lawyers are closely following the case into their former deputy general director. I think that the process on Atilla will be concluded in line with the predictions of our bank,” he said.

‘OIC needs to be reformed’

On issues concerning recent foreign policy developments, Erdoğan recalled that the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) convened in Istanbul on Dec. 13 to take joint action against the U.S.’s unilateral recognition of Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel.

“The participation [of the countries] in the summit could perfectly be at a higher level. We have been saddened by some Arab League countries that did not put their heart and soul into this matter,” he said.

“For example, Saudi Arabia was represented by its Islamic Affairs Minister. This is, of course, important but a higher level of participation would have been much better.”

The Turkish president mentioned the need to reform the OIC “because the OIC was founded for Jerusalem and is for Jerusalem. This organization should perform in a much efficient way.”

Hakan Atilla, banker, Erdoğan