Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Wednesday continued targeting the United States over the conviction in a New York court of Turkish banker Mehmet Hakan Atilla on charges of violating US sanctions on Iran, saying the US has no respect for the law, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.
“They attempt to challenge Turkey through political decisions. Sorry, but I have no respect for these kinds of decisions,” Erdoğan said at the “Justice Council” in Ankara.
Atilla, the 47-year-old former deputy chief executive officer of state lender Halkbank, was found guilty on Jan. 4 of violating US sanctions against Iran, committing crimes to deceive the US and defrauding US banks. The verdict came after more than three weeks of testimony and four days of deliberations.
Erdoğan on Tuesday said: “Those who were unable to succeed in the coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016 are now searching for a different means [of carrying out a coup] in our country.”
“The case [against Atilla] in the US is the source of this political coup attempt,” he added.
Erdoğan also alleged that it was an attempt aimed at cornering Turkey economically through the CIA, the FBI and the Gülen movement.
Atilla and Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab and seven other people, including Turkey’s former economy minister and two additional Halkbank executives, were charged with engaging in transactions worth hundreds of millions of dollars for Iran’s government and Iranian entities from 2010 to 2015 in a scheme to evade US sanctions.
Only Zarrab and Atilla are currently in US custody after separately being arrested upon trying to enter the United States in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
Zarrab made a plea deal with prosecutors and has served as the key witness in Atilla’s trial.
Zarrab testified in New York federal court in early December that he had bribed Turkey’s former economy minister, Mehmet Zafer Çağlayan, in a billion-dollar scheme to smuggle gold for oil in violation of US sanctions on Iran.
Zarrab said that Turkey’s then-prime minister and current president, Erdoğan, personally authorized the involvement of Turkish banks in the scheme.
Zarrab also said he paid money to secure his release from prison in Turkey in February 2014 and that those payments were partly bribes.
The Turkish government seized the assets of Zarrab and his relatives following his testimony in the US court.
Hüseyin Korkmaz, a former İstanbul police officer who testified at the New York trial of Atilla, called Erdoğan the “No. 1” target in a group that also included Çağlayan, and Süleyman Aslan, a former chief executive at Halkbank, a large Turkish state-owned bank that was central to the sanction-busting scheme.
Police notes of the Dec. 17, 2013 operations show that Zarrab personally talked with Erdoğan on April 13, 2013 and asked for an official police guard. Erdoğan and his Cabinet approved it immediately.
A phone call and a video in the Dec.17 file show that Zarrab in July 2013 sent an unspecified amount of money to the Service for Youth and Education Foundation of Turkey (TÜRGEV), run by Bilal Erdoğan, Erdoğan’s son.
Turkey issued detention warrants for six of Korkmaz’s family members following his testimony.