'Scandalous Decision': How A Turkish Banker's Conviction In US Is Roiling Ankara

French President Emanuel Macron with Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan

'Scandalous Decision': How A Turkish Banker's Conviction In US Is Roiling Ankara

President Erdogan has denied that Turkey breached United States sanctions, but the case has strained relations between Ankara and Washington.

In a scheme that moved tens of billions in dollars and gold from Turkey to Iran through a complex network of businesses, banks, and front companies, Turkish banker Mehmet Hakan Atilla was found guilty of a range of financial crimes in a Manhattan courtroom this week.

The statement slammed the trial was based on evidence which was fake and open to political exploitation. "We are against foreign interventions in Iran", Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said, in remarks quoted by television channel NTV. In particular, they took steps to protect and hide Zarrab's supply of currency and gold to the Government of Iran, Iranian entities, and SDNs using Turkish Bank-1, and in doing so, shielded Turkish Bank-1 from USA sanctions.

Atilla testified in his own defense, repeatedly and forcefully denying a role in the operation which Zarrab laid out to the jury and stating he was unaware Halkbank was violating sanctions.

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Turkish banker Hakan Atilla was found guilty in a United States court of violating Washington's sanctions against Iran.

Halkbank it hired Ballard Partners, a USA lobbying firm that already represented the Turkish government in September, for $1.5 million. He was cleared of another money laundering charge.

Tempers flared after authorities in several countries previous year prevented Turkish government ministers from holding political rallies to court expatriates' votes in a referendum on giving Erdogan expanded powers. Erdogan has publicly dismissed the case as a politically motivated attack on his government.

While the trial embarrassed Erdogan, lawyers for Atilla contended that the banker was a "pawn" - a secondary figure used as a vehicle to put the Turkish government on trial after prosecutors made a deal with Zarrab, who was at the center of the scheme.

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A senior government official in Turkey said Wednesday's verdict was "void".

"Even if they hate each other (Turkey and European nations) are aware that they are obliged to cooperate on so many issues", said Semih Idiz, a Turkish foreign policy analyst who writes for al-Monitor website.

Erdogan has called the case "a plot against Turkey".

He testified that in 2010, when Iran began to feel the squeeze from USA sanctions for its nuclear drive the scheme began.

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"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.

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