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Turkey Slams U.S. Conviction Of Turkish Banker, Warns Of Impact On Relations

Mehmet Hakan Atilla

Turkey has slammed the conviction of a Turkish banker found guilty in a federal court in New York of helping Iran evade U.S. sanctions, calling it a “legal disgrace.”

"It is an unjust and unfortunate development that Halkbank Deputy General Manager Mehmet Hakan Atilla was found guilty," the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement on January 4.

"The U.S. court, in a process carried out by relying on so-called 'evidence', which is fake and open to political exploitation...made an unprecedented interference in Turkey's internal affairs," it added.

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

A defense lawyer said Atilla will appeal. Halkbank has denied any wrongdoing and said that its transactions were in line with local and international regulations.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said on January 4 that Atilla's conviction has greatly damaged ties with the United States and may have a negative impact on future cooperation.

Ibrahim Kalin, the spokesman for Turkish President Tayyip Recep Erdogan, called the U.S. jury's decision “scandalous.”

U.S. 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.

Based on reporting by AP and Reuters