Halkbank executive pleads not guilty in New York in Iran sanctions case
NEW YORK - Reuters
REUTERS photoAn executive at the Turkish state-owned bank Halkbank on April 13 pleaded not guilty to involvement in a multi-year scheme to violate U.S. sanctions against Iran.
Mehmet Hakan Atilla, a deputy general manager at Halkbank, entered his plea through his lawyer at a hearing in Manhattan federal court.
U.S. prosecutors accused Atilla of conspiring with wealthy Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab to conduct hundreds of millions of dollars of illegal transactions through U.S. banks on behalf of Iran’s government and other entities in Iran.
Atilla, a 47-year-old Turkish citizen, looked somber as he appeared at a brief hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge James
Francis in Manhattan, a day after being arrested at John F. Kennedy International Airport on March 28.
Atilla had been in New York for the latest in a series of investor meetings ahead of a planned Halkbank dollar-denominated
subordinated bond issue.
Prosecutors say that as part of that scheme, Atilla and Zarrab used front companies and fake invoices to trick U.S. banks into processing transactions disguised to appear as though they involved food, and thus were exempt from U.S. sanctions.
Zarrab was arrested in Miami in March last year on charges that could see him sentenced to up to 30 years in prison.