USA jury convicts Turkish banker of helping Iran evade sanctions

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Istanbul Turkey on 13 December 2017

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan denounced the charges, claiming the case was based on fabricated evidence, and has twice asked the White House to settle the prosecution.

"Based on the so-called 'evidence, ' which are forged and susceptible to political manipulation, and dwelling on Turkey's internal affairs on a fictitious basis, the U.S. court has been drawn into Turkey's domestic affairs in an unprecedented way", a press release on the ministry's website read.

A jury in a US federal court has on Wednesday convicted an executive of Turkey's majority state-owned Halkbank for evading Iran sanctions in a case Erdogan casted as a political attack against his government. He was accused of helping Iran evade USA sanctions by using his position at one of Turkey's top banks.

The counts on which the banker was declared guilty included the violation of United States sanctions against Iran, crimes to deceive the USA, and defrauding American banks.

Zarrab, 34, agreed to testify in the trial after striking a deal to plead guilty to violating United States sanctions.

Atilla is charged with bank fraud, money laundering and four separate conspiracy charges.

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But the jury acquitted Atilla on one count of money laundering. That cooperation has further strained Turkish-U.S. relations.

Zarrab alleged top Turkish officials, including Erdogan, personally authorised two Turkish banks to join the scheme when he was prime minister, in addition to other ministers. However, in late November, Zarrab pled out, making him a witness for the prosecution.

Last week, a number of peaceful protests over economic problems started in several Iranian cities, but those gatherings turned violent when groups of participants, some of them armed, vandalized public property and launched attacks on police stations and government buildings. Gulen has denied the allegations, and USA officials have rebuffed Turkey's extradition demands, citing a lack of evidence.

"For years, Mehmet Hakan Atilla conspired to use the American financial system to conduct millions of dollars' worth of illegal transactions on behalf of the Government of Iran", said Acting Assistant Attorney General Boente. Atilla is scheduled to be sentenced on April 11, before Judge Berman.

In this courtroom sketch, Mehmet Atilla, center, testifies during his trial on corruption charges in NY on December 15, 2017. The Turks have always been critical of Syrian President Bashar Assad - in fact, Erdogan called him a "terrorist" just last week and insisted he should have no role in the future of Syria - while Iran provided vital military support to the Damascus dictatorship.

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