Calling the Turkish banker a "cog in the machine" of sanctions evasion, a US federal judge sentenced Halkbank manager Hakan Atilla on Wednesday to prison term of less than three years for helping launder billions to Iran.
Prosecutors maintained that Atilla used his position as Halkbank's deputy general manager for worldwide banking to help build and protect a scheme that enabled billions of dollars in profits from Iranian oil sales to flow through world financial markets since 2011.
There was no immediate response to the sentencing from the Turkish government or Halkbank.
Mehmet Atilla, right, testifies on December 15, 2017, during his trial on corruption charges in NY. He was acquitted on one count of money laundering. Indeed, the US-based prosecution has alleged that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan greenlighted the evasion scheme, which has prompted Erdogan to hit back with accusations that Washington is hatching a plot to undermine his country's reputation.
That means Atilla will spend roughly a year and a half more in prison, after deducting time the 47-year-old already served at New York's Metropolitan Correctional Center since his arrest last year. He simply tried to downplay his role in the fake food scheme and refused to have meetings with US officials.More news: The Windsors Royal Wedding special proves a triumph with viewers
Citing similar cases in which other national banks violated sanctions against Iran, the lawyers noted that none of the directors of those banks were arrested or sentenced but Atilla, who had no connection with the USA, was facing a prison term.
During trial past year, prosecutors labeled Atilla an "architect" of two schemes to accomplish this.
Watched intensely from NY to Istanbul, the proceedings ended with a likewise extraordinary 32-month sentence, a prison term lower than what prosecutors or even defense attorneys requested.
Atilla was found guilty of deceiving U.S. Treasury officials about Halkbank's activities and compliance efforts to avoid subjecting the bank to U.S. sanctions.
Lockard said the sanctions-busting scheme was "monumental in scope and momentous in timing" given the negotiations aimed at curtailing the nuclear aims of a state sponsor of terrorism and preventing a Middle East nuclear arms race.More news: Rapper TI Arrested After Altercation, Claims He Was 'Wrongfully Arrested'
In a 75-page petition to the court, Atilla's lawyers asked the judge for a "fair and merciful" sentence of between four to five years, more than the under-three-year sentence given Wednesday.
Lawyers for Atilla said they would nonetheless appeal. The judge praised the "exemplary life" that he said Atilla lived prior to his criminal offenses, and he held up a stack of 101 letters from Atilla's family, friends and colleagues attesting to the banker's character. Then, weeks before trial previous year, he agreed to cooperate.
Sarraf, who was arrested in the U.S.in 2016 and accused of violating US sanctions on Iran, pleaded guilty in the case last October and cooperated with prosecutors.
Far away from his wife, son and aging parents, Atilla pleaded for a quick return to his family.
Cathy Fleming, another of Atilla's lawyers, read a brief statement by her client, translated from Turkish, asking for Berman's "understanding of the situation that I and my family are in".More news: Chill in Gods Own Country: Kerala govt to Karnataka MLAs