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Today, Hakan Atilla, a Turkish banker, will be sentenced for helping Iran evade sanctions.

U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman ordered Mehmet Hakan Atilla to spend 32 months in prison, including 14 months he has already served after his arrest past year during a business trip to NY on behalf of his employer, Turkey's state-run Halkbank.

One of the prosecutors, Michael Lockard, argued that Atilla was a significant figure in the conspiracy, noting that participants referred to one of the laundering strategies as "Atilla's method", and that his three-year involvement lasted longer than any other employee's at Halkbank.

"This is not a case about drugs", Mr. Lockard said.

Atilla, who worked as a deputy general manager at Halkbank, has already spent 14 months in jail.

According to prosecutors, the central figure in the scheme was wealthy Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab, who pleaded guilty to fraud, conspiracy and money laundering charges, and testified for several days as the US government's star witness against Atilla.

Mehmet Atilla, right, testifies on December 15, 2017, during his trial on corruption charges in NY.

Atilla was arrested in NY in March 2017, a year after Zarrab's arrest in Florida.

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"If Hakan Atilla is going to be declared a criminal, that would be nearly equivalent to declaring the Turkish Republic a criminal", Erdogan said.

Though nine people were charged, including Aslan and Turkey's former economic minister, Mehmet Zafer Caglayan, the others managed to evade USA custody and haven't faced trial.

Berman's remarks echoed arguments that Atilla's defense attorney Victor Rocco made throughout last year's trial.

However, Judge Berman said before imposing his sentence that the evidence presented at trial showed Atilla was a minor player in the sanctions-dodging scheme, and "at times a reluctant one at that", largely following orders from his supervisor.

Atilla began his remarks by mentioning the holiday being widely celebrated back in his home country.

And though Turkish bank and government officials were paid millions in bribes, Berman noted Atilla derived no benefit from the scheme. "As of now, apart from my family, I have no other priorities". In addition to implicating Atilla, Zarrab described a vast bribery and corruption scheme that involved millions in payments to government ministers and banking executives, all done with the blessing of Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Such testimony could have wide ramifications in Turkey if US financial regulators slap Halkbank with a fine that can roil the country's economy. "I hope it doesn't yield a result that will completely destroy Turkish-US relations", he added.

Berman has ridiculed those theories in the past, and he said that letters that he received from regular Turkish people expressed confidence in USA justice.


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