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By INU Staff

INU - Yesterday, prosecutors in the United States called on a federal judge to sentence a Turkish banker to twenty years in prison for his involvement in helping Iran evade US sanctions.
Forty-seven-year-old Mehmet Hakan Atilla was the deputy general manager at Halkbank – a Turkish state-controlled bank. A federal judge found him guilty at the beginning of the year in a court in Manhattan.

Diplomatic ties between Turkey and the United States have become tense because of this case in which prosecutors claimed Atilla conspired with several people including Reza Zarrab – a Turkish-Iranian gold trader – to help Iran evade sanctions. Atilla allegedly carried out fraudulent food and gold transactions between the years of 2010 and 2015.

In the court filing, prosecutors said that when the United States and several other countries were in the process of trying to cut as much funding as possible to the Iranian government’s financing of “malign and deadly activities”, Atilla played a major role in bypassing these efforts.

The sentencing is due to take place next Wednesday in New York by US District Judge Richard Berman. Atilla’s lawyers have asked for leniency, stating that there were no victims that incurred a “financial loss” and there was no “crime of American disloyalty”. His lawyers also said that their client, a Turkish national, did not commit any “economic” crimes. Furthermore, they alluded to his wife and child that are “8,000 kilometres” away, saying that a lengthy sentence would be hard on them too.

Reza Zarrab, the Turkish-Iranian gold dealer, pleaded guilty during his trial and was the main witness in Atilla’s case. During trial testimony that lasted several days, he gave details about the bribery scheme that was carried out with the knowledge and approval of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The Turkish President has said that the case is a disgrace and nothing but a politically motivated attack against the country’s government.

There have been nine defendants charged as part of the case, but seven of them currently remain free.

Before the 2015 Iran nuclear deal was agreed, numerous sanctions were crippling the Iranian economy. Once the deal was signed, sanctions were lifted and it gave Iran the freedom to carry out more international business transactions and deals. As a result of the lifting of sanctions, a huge sum of money was freed up – a sum that was big enough to have made a huge improvement to the poor social conditions in Iran.

However, the people of Iran never got to see such an improvement because the Iranian regime plundered the funds on the financing of terrorism and the support of numerous militias and proxies across the region.

President Trump has criticised the deal extensively and has told the EU signatories (France, Germany and the United Kingdom) that, if the numerous flaws are not fixed by 12th May, the United States would be pulling out of the deal. He is also adamant that Iran’s ballistic missile program is addressed.

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