Dec 19 2017

Halkbank executive Atilla denies guilt at U.S. trial

A Turkish banker on trial in a case that has increased tensions between the United States and Turkey told a New York court he was “absolutely not” guilty of breaking U.S. sanctions on Iran, the Courthouse News said.

Asked by his attorney whether he conspired with Iranian-Turkish gold dealer Reza Zarrab to bypass the sanctions imposed over Iran’s nuclear programme, former Halkbank Vice-Chairman Mehmet Hakan Atilla said: “I did not conspire with anyone in any part of my life on that”.

The prosecutor questioned Atilla on an email in which he said Atilla had written that the bank should take a bigger cut than normal because no other bank would carry out those transactions at the same scale due to sanctions – implying that Atilla knew that his bank was actively undermining the U.S. sanctions regime.

Atilla responded that there was a mistake in the translation and that he “cannot draw a parallel between” being the only bank willing to carry out the transactions and the U.S.-imposed sanctions.

There was also an extra workload associated with dealings with Iran, he said.

Atilla told the court that he had cooperated with agents from the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and had ceased doing business with banks they warned him about.

He also denied wrongdoing in the case of Halkbank handling oil money from Indian and Iranian sources, saying that these were purely commercial transactions in which the bank sought to abide by sanctions rules.

When OFAC agent David Cohen had asked him why he was still doing business with Zarrab, Atilla said, he had told him that Zarrab was an ongoing client who still had a loan to pay back to the bank.

Atilla’s cross-examination continues tomorrow, when the judge also hopes to begin both parties’ closing statements.