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U.S. Jury Finds Turkish Banker Guilty In Iran Sanctions Case

Turkish-Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab (right) and banker Mehmet Hakan Atilla (combo photo)

A U.S. federal jury in Manhattan has found a Turkish banker guilty of helping Iran evade U.S. sanctions, convicting him on five of the six charges he faced.

The jury on January 3 found Mehmet Hakan Atilla, an executive at Turkish state-owned bank Halkbank, guilty of bank fraud and conspiracy, but he was found not guilty on a money-laundering charge.

A defense lawyer said Atilla will appeal.

Prosecutors said Atilla, 47, participated in a scheme to launder $1 billion of Iranian oil and gas revenue through U.S. banks in violation of U.S. sanctions, saying he conspired with trader Reza Zarrab, 34, by using fraudulent gold and food transactions.

Zarrab pleaded guilty and testified against Atilla in the criminal case.

Seven other people have been charged, but only Atilla and Zarrab were in U.S. custody.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has publicly dismissed the case as a politically motivated attack on his government.

A senior Turkish official was quoted by Reuters news agency as claiming the U.S. jury ruling was not valid and that it violated international law. He said the verdict would not impact Halkbank or the country's banking system.

Joon Kim, the acting U.S. attorney in Manhattan, said after the verdict that “foreign banks and bankers have a choice: You can choose willfully to help Iran and other sanctioned nations evade U.S. law, or you can choose to be part of the international banking community transacting in U.S. dollars.

"But you can't do both," he added.

Based on reporting by AP and Reuters