The case hinged on the testimony of a Turkish-Iranian gold trader, who became the prosecution's star witness after admitting helping Iran evade sanctions. In Istanbul, in March 2014, a leaked report suggested that Zarrab led another sanctions-busting scheme involving fake invoices for billions more in fictitious humanitarian shipments to Iran that were processed through Turkish banks.
Halk Bank executive Mehmet Atilla, 47, was convicted of five counts, including conspiracy.
Though the verdict did not have a major impact on the Turkish stock market or the currency, some experts emphasize the critical factor will be what kind of penalty American financial authorities, such as the U.S. Treasury, levy to Turkey's Halkbank.
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Atilla, Zarrab and others used deceptive measures to provide access to worldwide financial networks, including USA financial institutions, to the Government of Iran, Iranian entities and entities identified by the Department of the Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control as Specially Designated Nationals (SDNs).
According to the ruling, Atilla's guilty counts include violating USA sanctions against Iran, crimes to deceive the US and defrauding USA banks. Zarrab hired former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Attorney General Michael Mukasey in an attempt to derail the proceedings.
While the trial embarrassed Erdogan, lawyers for Atilla contended that the banker was a "pawn" - a secondary figure used as a vehicle to put the Turkish government on trial after prosecutors made a deal with Zarrab, who was at the center of the scheme. Atilla would stand trial alone.
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Charges against him were ultimately dropped, but he was arrested in Miami in 2016, and eventually agreed under pressure to testify in the United States case over violating Iran sanctions in a plea bargain. Since protests broke out across Iran last week, US President Donald Trump has voiced his support for the demonstrators, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has praised them for taking to the streets to protest against the government, Xinhua news agency reported. Zarrab claimed that the Turkish economy minister allegedly took $50 million in bribes to help facilitate the scheme.
A former Turkish police official, Huseyin Korkmaz, testified that the corruption investigation he had built against Zarrab and others in the gold-for-oil case was promptly quashed. "This time, with relations with the United States at a low, it's leaning on Europe".
Given Tehran's current domestic turmoil, the regime probably gave little thought to the Atilla verdict.
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