The case against Mehmet Hakan Atilla, the former deputy chief executive officer of Turkey’s Halkbank, has driven a wedge between Washington and Ankara.

Mehmet Hakan Atilla (R), a former deputy general manager of Halkbank, is shown in this court room sketch with his attorney Gerald J. DiChiara as he appears in Manhattan federal court in New York, New York, US, on March 28, 2017.
Mehmet Hakan Atilla (R), a former deputy general manager of Halkbank, is shown in this court room sketch with his attorney Gerald J. DiChiara as he appears in Manhattan federal court in New York, New York, US, on March 28, 2017. ( Reuters Archive )

A Turkish banker was found guilty on Wednesday by a jury in New York on five charges related to conspiracy and bank fraud but was acquitted of money laundering.

The verdict by a panel of six men and six women against Mehmet Hakan Atilla, 47, the former deputy chief executive officer of Turkey’s Halkbank, was reached after more than three weeks of testimony and four days of deliberation.

The guilty counts include violating US sanctions against Iran, crimes to deceive the US and defrauding US banks.

Judge Richard Berman will sentence Atilla on April 11 but defence attorneys are expected to appeal the verdict that could land Atilla in prison for as much as 95 years.

Atilla was arrested in the US earlier this year for allegedly violating American sanctions against Iran.

The government’s case hinged on the testimony of Reza Zarrab, who was arrested in the US in 2016 on similar charges.

The Turkish businessman pleaded guilty to the charges just prior to the start of the trial and testified for prosecutors against Atilla.

The case has driven another wedge between Washington and Ankara that have had strained relations in the recent past.

Turkey has accused the US judicial system of overreach in the case.

The defence tried unsuccessfully to obtain a mistrial on grounds that a report was introduced late in the trial and it was not included in the list of evidence material at the start of the trial.

The request to throw out the case came after prosecutors questioned Atilla based on a report prepared by a fugitive member of an outlawed group commonly known in Turkey as the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), Osman Zeki Canitez, in an attempt to strengthen the government’s case. The report was not among the evidence and was misleading to the jury, according to the defence.

FETO and its US-based leader Fetullah Gulen are accused of orchestrating the July 15, 2016, failed coup that was beat back in Turkey but left 250 dead and nearly 2,200 injured.

The defence also appealed for a mistrial based on testimony from another FETO fugitive, Huseyin Korkmaz, who they said “submitted stolen evidence” and “testified wrongly.”

The disgraced former police official admitted in court he had stolen documents related to an investigation and roundup of scores of FETO suspects in Turkey in late 2013.

A second mistrial request earlier this week was denied because Atilla “received a thoroughly fair and transparent trial,” Berman wrote in his ruling.

Source: AA