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Turkish Banker to Learn Fate for Busting Iran Sanctions

Turkish Banker to Learn Fate for Busting Iran Sanctions

The case is U.S. v. Atilla, 15-cr-867, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

Berman also said Atilla "appears to have led an exemplary life in Turkey", pointing to more than a hundred letters he received from Atilla's family and friends in his support.

"Mr. Atilla was, as the defense suggests, somewhat of a cog in the wheel, and I would add a somewhat reluctant one, " Berman said during a three-hour court proceeding that mostly featured the judge explaining how he chose a far lighter sentence. Atilla, who headed global banking at Turkiye Halk Bankasi AS, remains employed by the bank, according to his lawyers.

"We want his acquittal, because there's no crime".

Atilla was found guilty on January 3 of conspiring to violate US sanctions law.

Atilla was convicted of five counts including conspiracy to launder money and sanctions evasion.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Monday blasted the USA government for prosecuting Atilla, calling the case "a great injustice" and claiming the US case was based on evidence fabricated by followers Fetullah Gulen, a US -based Muslin cleric who has also been blamed for the failed 2016 Turkish coup attempt.

Atilla will get credit for the 14 months he's already spent in prison.

"What I used to consider a priority has profoundly changed", Atilla said in a statement read by one of his lawyers, Cathy Fleming, during the hearing.

Prosecutors have said that in early 2012, Atilla was involved in a scheme to help Iran spend oil and gas revenues overseas using fraudulent gold and food transactions through Halkbank, violating United States sanctions.

His conviction hinged on the testimony of Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab, who was arrested by USA authorities in 2016 after getting to Florida with his wife and child on a family holiday to Disney World.

Atilla's attorneys had argued that federal guidelines recommended a term of just 46 to 57 months, and argued for a sentence "dramatically below" that length.

There was no immediate response to the sentencing from the Turkish government or Halkbank. He was arrested in March 2017 on a business trip to NY to promote a securities offering and has been held in prison ever since. Berman quickly rejected that, saying it wouldn't be "fair, appropriate or reasonable".

"This is a case about nuclear capability by the world's foremost state sponsor of worldwide terrorism", he said at the sentencing.

Turkish government officials vilified the participants in the US court proceedings, with the state news media labeling Berman, prosecutors and even reporters pawns in an elaborate conspiracy by Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen, a former Erdogan ally turned state enemy.

On the stand, Zarrab implicated both Erdogan in directing sanctions-busting trades and top officials at Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party in accepting millions of dollars in bribes.