Turkish banker sentenced to 32 months in United States prison for sanction evasion

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Turkey said on Wednesday a USA court's sentencing of Mehmet Hakan Atilla, a banker at the Turkish state-controlled Halkbank, to 32 months in prison was not legitimate or credible due to what it said were fake evidence and incorrect statements during the trial.

Earlier in 2018, Atilla was convicted of taking part in a scheme to help Iran evade USA sanctions.

Reports say USA prosecutors wanted 15 years sentence for Atilla but the bankers lawyers sought a sentence of less than four years.

Atilla was found guilty on 3 January of conspiring to violate USA sanctions law. Indeed, the US-based prosecution has alleged that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan greenlighted the evasion scheme, which has prompted Erdogan to hit back with accusations that Washington is hatching a plot to undermine his country's reputation. That time will be credited toward his sentence, allowing him to return to Turkey in about a year.

Atilla's attorneys had argued that federal guidelines recommended a term of just 46 to 57 months, and argued for a sentence "dramatically below" that length. Zarrab pleaded guilty to fraud, conspiracy and money laundering charges and testified against Atilla on behalf of the US government.

The time he spent behind bars will be deducted from the total sentence, meaning he will be free after 18 months.

Zarrab, 34, initially pleaded not guilty then flipped, becoming a U.S. government witness after admitting being involved in the multi-billion-dollar gold-for-oil scheme to subvert USA economic sanctions against Iran.

Zarrab, who has yet to be sentenced, testified during Atilla's trial that he bribed Turkish officials, and that Erdogan personally signed off on parts of the scheme while serving as Turkey's prime minister. The ministry stated the US court docket relied on "solid proof and false statements" from members of the community of a USA -based cleric accused of trying to overthrow the Turkish authorities.

"A great injustice is being done against Halkbank", Erdogan told Bloomberg TV in an interview on Monday, calling Atilla "definitely innocent".

"If Hakan Atilla is going to be declared a criminal, that would be nearly equivalent to declaring the Turkish Republic a criminal", Erdogan said.