Judge denies motion to dismiss, says Atilla case will proceed to sentencing

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Reza Zarrab (L), President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (C), Hakan Atilla

The federal judge presiding over an Iran sanctions trial has denied a motion by Turkish banker Mehmet Hakan Atilla to dismiss an indictment against him, saying the evidence at trial supports the finding of guilt and that the case will proceed to sentencing, New York Times reporter Benjamin Weiser tweeted on Wednesday morning.

Last month a jury in New York federal court found Atilla, an executive of Turkey’s Halkbank charged with participating in a scheme to evade US sanctions on Iran, guilty on five counts, including bank fraud and conspiracy, and not guilty on one count of money laundering.

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.

Atilla denied he had conspired with Zarrab or that he had been involved in any other wrongdoing.

Zarrab made a plea deal with prosecutors and served as the key witness in Atilla’s trial.
Zarrab testified 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, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, personally authorized the involvement of Turkish banks in the scheme.

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