Turkey says U.S. court verdict an 'interference in domestic affairs'

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Istanbul Turkey on 13 December 2017

Erdogan also urged Washington to reconsider "its sense of justice" as a Turkish banker was convicted in a U.S. court for helping Iran evade sanctions.

Hakan Atilla, 47, a manager at Turkey's government-owned Halkbank, was convicted of aiding millionaire gold trader Reza Zarrab, who masterminded the scheme but became a government witness after he was arrested by federal agents past year on a family trip to Disney World.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Friday warned that bilateral legal accords with the US were "losing validity", lashing out at Washington over the conviction of a Turkish banker in a USA trial.

Although US prosecutors have criminally charged nine people, only Zarrab and Atilla have been arrested by US authorities so far.

According to the ruling, Atilla's guilty counts include violating USA sanctions against Iran, crimes to deceive the US and defrauding USA banks.

Defense lawyer Victor Rocco told reporters that Atilla was a "victim of some weird game" and that he will appeal, according to the Associated Press.

Atilla, 47, was found to have conspired with a gold trader, Reza Zarrab, and others to help Iran escape sanctions by disguising financial transactions as humanitarian food payments. He was accused of helping Iran evade USA sanctions by using his position at one of Turkey's top banks. "This successful prosecution is another example of our resolve to pursue and bring to justice those who violate our sanctions and other laws that protect our national security".

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"If you lie repeatedly to U.S. Treasury officials and fabricate documents - all as part of a secret scheme to smuggle billions of dollars in Iranian oil money past the U.S. sanctions net - as Atilla did, then you should be prepared for the consequences", Acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim said.

But jurors found Atilla not guilty on a money laundering charge.

The Ankara government on Thursday expressed outrage over a decision by a U.S. jury that found the deputy director of a majority state-owned Turkish bank guilty on charges of helping Iran evade American sanctions.

Mehmet Hakan Atilla, a 47-year-old deputy general manager at Turkey's state-run Halkbank, was charged by USA authorities with taking part in a complex scheme in which Iran traded its oil and gas for gold, with some of the proceeds moved through US financial institutions without their knowledge.

The bank underlined that Halkbank always adheres to national and worldwide regulations in all its business and transactions, and also puts utmost effort to improve its compliance policy further within the framework of global standards. The bank fraud counts each carry a maximum term of imprisonment of 30 years. Atilla is scheduled to be sentenced on April 11, before Judge Berman.

Atilla denied all the charges and his lawyers sought to portray him as a "helpless pawn" and as a lowly bureaucrat who was not present at key meetings where the scheme was hatched.

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