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Turkish banker who served time in US for evading sanctions welcomed by Minister Albayrak

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A Turkish bank executive who served a 32-month jail sentence in New York for helping evade US sanctions against Iran returned to Istanbul on Wednesday where he was welcomed by Turkey’s treasury and finance minister, Berat Albayrak, Reuters reported.

A US court sentenced Halkbank’s Mehmet Hakan Atilla in May 2018 in a case that strained ties between NATO allies Ankara and Washington. At the time of his sentencing, Atilla had spent more than a year in jail.

Atilla, who was greeted at the airport with flowers and a hug from Albayrak, son-in-law of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has always denied the charges against him.

Halkbank denies any wrongdoing. It could still face US fines related to the case, though in recent months the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, or OFAC, has been silent on the issue.

Albayrak, Halkbank CEO Osman Arslan and Ziraat Bank CEO Huseyin Aydın greeted Atilla at İstanbul’s airport, along with the banker’s family, TV footage showed.

Atilla appeared teary-eyed but joyful as he hugged relatives.

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