US judge sentences ex-Halkbank executive Hakan Atilla to 32 months in prison
NEW YORK - Agence France-Presse
A Turkish banker was sentenced on May 16 to 32 months in a United States prison for plotting to help Iran evade American sanctions, in a much-contested case straining ties between Ankara and Washington.
He was acquitted on one count of money laundering.
Judge Richard Berman handed down the sentence of 32 months in a Manhattan court on May 14.
U.S. prosecutors had wanted him put away for 20 years.
His conviction hinged on the testimony of Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab, who was arrested by U.S. authorities in 2016 after jetting to Florida with his celebrity wife and child on a family holiday to Disney World.
Zarrab, 34, initially pleaded not guilty then flipped, becoming a U.S. government witness after admitting to being involved in the multi-billion-dollar gold-for-oil scheme to subvert U.S. economic sanctions against Iran.
His testimony identified Atilla as a key organizer, but also implicated former Turkish ministers and even President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has railed against the verdict and the trial, calling it a plot against Turkey.
“There is a judicial procedure and the lawyers of Halkbank especially are following this judicial process. I hope it does not yield a result that will completely destroy Turkish-U.S. relations,” he added.
Testifying in court last November, Zarrab said he was told that Erdoğan, as prime minister in 2012, and treasury minister Ali Babacan had given “instructions” to two public banks to take part in the scheme.