Atilla sentenced to 32 months in U.S. prison over evading Iran sanctions
17 May, 2018, 04:10 | Author: Sheila Harris
Prosecutors have said that beginning around 2012, Atilla was involved in a scheme to help Iran spend oil and gas revenues overseas using fraudulent gold and food transactions through Halkbank, violating USA sanctions.
Atilla was found guilty on January 3 of conspiring to violate United States sanctions law.
Sarraf, who was arrested in the U.S.in 2016 and accused of violating USA sanctions on Iran, pleaded guilty in the case last October and cooperated with prosecutors.
Atilla's conviction hinged on the testimony of Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab, who was arrested by USA authorities in 2016 after jetting to Florida with his pop-star wife and child on a family holiday to Disney World.
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. As a result of this scheme, he and his co-conspirators caused US banks to unknowingly process transactions on behalf of the Iranian government, the Justice Department said.
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 USA government's star witness against Atilla.
Atilla appeared to be a marginal figure in the case.
But Judge Berman indicated that Mr. Atilla's role did not warrant the longer sentence the government was seeking. Atilla, by contrast, wasn't named as a defendant until nearly a year after the indictment was unsealed.
The wealthy Zarrab, arrested a year before Atilla, initially attracted considerable attention to the case.
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. Zarrab pleaded guilty to fraud, conspiracy and money laundering charges and testified against Atilla on behalf of the US government. Evidence presented during the monthlong trial included wiretapped telephone conversations in which he gave instructions on how to fabricate documents to cover up the plot, and testimony that he was present in meetings where the plans were hatched.
Under federal sentencing guidelines, Atilla faced life in prison because of the amount involved in the scheme.
Berman said the lengthier prison terms recommended would be "inappropriate, unreasonable and unfair". He was acquitted on one count of money laundering. He noted that the evasion strengthened Iran's hand during negotiations over the agreement to contain Iran's nuclear program.
"This is the biggest sanction evasion prosecution in the United States that we're aware of", said Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Lockard.
The prosecutors had called for a 20-year sentence, but U.S. District Judge Richard Berman said the scheme was most likely engineered by people far more powerful than Atilla.
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".
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