Turkish Banker Gets 32 Months in Prison Following Iranian-Sanctions Conviction

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Zarrab, 34, initially pleaded not guilty then decided to make a deal, becoming a United States government witness after admitting being involved in the multi-billion-dollar gold-for-oil scheme to subvert USA economic sanctions against Iran.

Atilla, a 47-year-old Turkish citizen, was sentenced by US District Judge Richard Berman in Manhattan.

The case has strained relations between Washington and Ankara, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's spokesman in April calling it "a grave injustice". As a result of this scheme, he and his co-conspirators caused US banks to unknowingly process transactions on behalf of the Iranian government, the Justice Department said. Zarrab pleaded guilty to fraud, conspiracy and money laundering charges and testified against Atilla on behalf of the USA government.

Turkey's Foreign Ministry said Atilla's sentencing was not legitimate or credible due to what it said was false evidence and statements fabricated by supporters of USA -based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of orchestrating a failed coup in 2016.

Atilla appeared to be a marginal figure in the case.

But Judge Berman indicated that Mr. Atilla's role did not warrant the longer sentence the government was seeking. Atilla, by contrast, wasn't named as a defendant until nearly a year after the indictment was unsealed.

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

Atilla sentenced to 32 months in US prison over evading Iran sanctions
Turkish banker sentenced for 32 months for role in scheme to help Iran avoid US sanctions

Nine defendants have been charged in the case, but most of the others reside in Turkey and remain at large. Evidence presented during the monthlong trial included wiretapped telephone conversations in which he gave instructions on how to fabricate documents to cover up the plot, and testimony that he was present in meetings where the plans were hatched.

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.

"This is a case about nuclear capability by the world's biggest state sponsor of terrorism", Lockard said.

The ministry accused the US court of taking false evidence and statements fabricated by supporters of Fethullah Gülen, the leader of the Gülensit terror Group (FETÖ) accused of orchestrating a failed coup in 2016, and said Atilla had been sentenced despite being innocent.

And though Turkish bank and government officials were paid millions in bribes, Berman noted Atilla derived no benefit from the scheme.

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.

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