Turkish national Hakan Atilla may be the first foreign banker prosecuted for violating sanctions against Iran and prosecutors told a federal judge Wednesday that his unprecedented scheme should not be rewarded with light prison time, Courthouse News Service reported.
United States prosecutors asked a judge in Manhattan on Wednesday to sentence a Turkish banker to about 20 years in prison for his conviction in January.
The defendant, Mehmet Hakan Atilla, 47, the deputy general manager for international banking at Halkbank, a Turkish state bank, was convicted in January. The government’s star witness, Reza Zarrab, a Turkish-Iranian gold trader, suggested in his testimony that Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, personally approved the sanctions-evasion scheme in 2012, when he was the prime minister, NY Times reported.
Ergodgan is not charged in this case.
“The defendant’s offenses are in some respects without parallel, and the immense risks that he and his co-conspirators created to the national security of the United States and to the safety and stability of the entire globe are similarly without ready comparison,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Lockard wrote in a 64-page brief, reported by Courthouse News Service.
“At a time when the United States and the community of nations were engaged in the momentous undertaking of depriving the government of Iran of funding for its malign and deadly activities, including its alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons and support for terrorist groups, Atilla was a key player in massively undermining those efforts”, Lockard continued.
Mr. Atilla is to be sentenced on April 11. His lawyers disagree and have asked the judge, Richard M. Berman of Federal District Court, to “temper justice with mercy.” They argued that federal guidelines call for only four to five years in prison and that Mr. Atilla should serve “significantly below” that.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman has condemned this recommendation for such a lengthy sentence, Radio Free Europe Reported.
“We strongly condemn and reject this decision, it is a grave injustice,” spokesman Ibrahim Kalin told a news conference in Istanbul on April 5 when asked about the sentencing recommendation by U.S. attorneys for Halkbank executive Hakan Atilla, who was found guilty of evading sanctions on Iran by a U.S. jury in January.
Erdogan earlier this year called the case “an attempt to stage a new coup” in Turkey because the star witness for the prosecution testified that high-level Turkish officials and Erdogan himself were involved in the scheme to help Iran launder revenues derived from oil sales in global financial markets in violation of U.S. sanctions.
By Jared Evan