Turkish Banker Is Indicted by U.S. in Iran Sanctions Case

April 8, 2017, 12:49 AM GMT+3

The case against a Turkish banker arrested at a New York airport last week moved a step closer to a trial after a U.S. grand jury accused him of conspiring to help Iran launder money through the U.S. financial system.

The indictment against Mehmet Hakan Atilla, a deputy chief executive at Turkiye Halk Bankasi AS, one of Turkey’s largest banks, is largely a legal formality that adds him as a defendant to the case against Reza Zarrab, a Turkish-Iranian businessman.

Atilla is accused of using his bank to help Zarrab disguise transactions on behalf of Iran as food deals that are allowed as an exception to U.S. sanctions on Iran. Atilla is being held in jail and scheduled to appear in Manhattan federal court next week. He has yet to enter a plea. Thomas Thornhill, his lawyer, didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

Atilla is accused of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which allows the U.S. to impose financial and economic sanctions on nations it deems a threat.

The case against Zarrab has become a high-profile controversy in the U.S. and has roiled diplomatic relations with Turkey. Zarrab has hired former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani and ex-U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey to seek a resolution to his case, and the two have met with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and sought high-level U.S. talks on his behalf. Earlier this week, a U.S. judge ordered a hearing into Giuliani and Mukasey’s activities and said he wanted to know who was paying Zarrab’s legal bills.

The case is U.S. v Zarrab, 15-cr-867, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York.