Banker From Turkey Is Convicted in U.S. Over Plot to Evade Iran Sanctions Leave a comment

A Turkish banker was convicted on Wednesday of taking part in a billion-dollar scheme to evade American sanctions against Iran, in a case that painted a picture of high-level corruption in Turkey and heightened tensions between the United States and a NATO ally.

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was not charged in the indictment, but he seemed to loom over the Federal District Court case in Manhattan during the monthlong trial and even before it began. Testimony suggested that he had approved the sanctions-busting scheme.

Mr. Erdogan and other Turkish officials had bitterly denounced the charges against the banker, Mehmet Hakan Atilla, and eight co-defendants, and repeatedly urged American officials to drop the case. Mr. Erdogan even took the matter up with President Trump.

The case was followed closely in Turkey, where the government was already angry at the United States for giving shelter to a cleric Mr. Erdogan says was behind a coup attempt in 2016.

Mehmet Hakan Atilla, in a photo from social media.

Mr. Atilla is to be sentenced on April 11 by Judge Richard M. Berman. The bank fraud count alone carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.

Victor J. Rocco, one of Mr. Atilla’s lawyers, said his client would appeal. “We believe he is innocent, and he intends, most importantly, to continue to fight and clear his name,” he said.

Mr. Erdogan has said that the case was based on fabricated evidence. And during a recent interview on the news channel 24 TV, Turkey’s justice minister, Abdulhamit Gul, assailed the credibility of the entire proceeding. “A final ruling on this will mean nothing to us,” he said. “This is a tragedy in the judiciary with no legal foundations, turning into a comedy over time.”

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