Turkish Banker Sentenced To 32 Months In Iran Sanctions Case

The U.S. prison sentence given to the former deputy CEO of a Turkish state bank came despite his absence of guilt, and with the use of forged evidence and false statements, said Turkey on Wednesday.

A federal judge sentenced a Turkish banker to 32 months in prison Wednesday for his role in a scheme to help Iran avoid US sanctions, the Justice Department announced.

Atilla has already served 14 months in prison since his arrest a year ago during a business trip to NY.

Atilla's conviction hinged on the testimony of Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab, who was arrested by USA authorities in 2016 after jetting to Florida with his pop-star wife and child on a family holiday to Disney World.

One of Atilla's lawyers, Victor Rocco, called the 32-month sentence "fair", but said the banker would appeal his conviction. USA prosecutors had wanted him put away for 20 years.

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

"Apart from my family, I have no other priorities", the statement said.

He was convicted in January on five counts of bank fraud and conspiracy. His conviction followed a four-week trial in which Atilla testified in his own defense.

Turkish President Erdogan has said the United States case was based on evidence fabricated by followers of US-based preacher Fetullah Gulen, who Ankara also accuses of carrying out the failed 2016 coup attempt.

"By convicting a foreign government official, this court made an unprecedented decision regarding the implementation of US sanctions legislation" regarding Iran, it said.

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.

Today's sentencing will further fracture the already shaky US-Turkey relationship.

Zarrab, who has yet to be sentenced, said on the witness stand 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.

Vanessa Coleman