Turkish officials have expressed fury at Washington following a major U.S. trial and conviction. On Wednesday, a jury in New York found Turkish banker Mehmet Hakan Atilla guilty of helping Iran evade U.S. sanctions.
The Turkish foreign ministry labeled the trial “scandalous” and “politically motivated.”
CGTN’s Michal Bardavid has the details.
Mehmet Hakan Atilla is an executive at Turkey’s mainly state-owned Halkbank. He was accused of helping Iran evade U.S. sanctions by using his position at one of Turkey’s top banks.
Atilla was convicted on five counts of conspiracy and bank fraud. He was acquitted on a charge of money laundering.
But Atilla was not the star of the trial – it was Reza Zarrab who sealed the case for the prosecution as its key witness.
Zarrab, a Turkish-Iranian gold trader, confessed to have been part of the scheme. He claimed he bribed the then-Turkish economic minister and that the Turkish president was fully aware of the operation all along.
They are charges Recep Tayyip Erdogan has denounced.
Zarrab was known at one time as a “hero” in Turkey as a top exporter. Yet the sentiment turned when it became clear he was cooperating with the U.S. prosecution. That cooperation has further strained Turkish-U.S. relations.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan had urged U.S. officials to drop the case, but his calls were rejected. Erdogan has repeatedly criticized the U.S., accusing Washington of trying to interfere with Turkey’s politics, and aiming to harm the country’s ruling government.
“This is a scandalous decision of a scandalous case. There is no other meaning to it,” said Ibrahim Kalin, spokesman for Turkey’s President. “A legally shameful scenario is being put into practice now. We wonder how long the U.S. administration will allow FETO (the network of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen) to exploit the American justice system in their favor through the links they established.”
FETO is the organization Ankara believes is behind the failed 2016 coup attempt.
Many in Turkey are worried about the potential economic consequences resulting from the trial.
Though the verdict did not have a major impact on the Turkish stock market or the currency, some experts emphasize the critical factor will be what kind of penalty American financial authorities, such as the U.S. Treasury, levy to Turkey’s Halkbank.
“If very large fines are issued, or if it goes further than just monetary penalties and other types of punishments are issued, Turkey – which has a significant foreign currency deficit – could face serious problems. We could face a situation that could cause substantial volatility in the medium and long term,” predicted Oguz Demir, an economist.
Atilla will be sentenced in April. His lawyers have stressed they will appeal the verdict.