By: Ashleigh Foor
On January 3, 2018, a five-week jury trial wrapped up and convicted Mehmet Hakan Atilla, 47, a resident and citizen of Turkey, to 32 months for conspiring with others in a scheme to violate U.S. economic sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic of Iran. The violation involved billions of dollars’ worth of Iranian oil proceeds held at Atilla’s employer (Turkish Bank-1).
Atilla, a Turkish banker, Reza Zarrab, an international gold trader, and others defrauded U.S. financial institutions by using them to conduct transactions on behalf of the government of Iran and other Iranian entities which were barred by U.S. sanction. They did so by making these transactions falsely appear as if they involved food, therefore falling within humanitarian exceptions to the sanctions regime.
Atilla lied to U.S. Treasury officials about Turkish Bank-1’s activities and its supposed compliance efforts to avoid subjecting the bank to U.S. sanctions. Atilla and his co-conspirators’ deceptions led U.S. banks to unknowingly process international financial transactions in violation of the IEEPA, and to launder through the U.S. financial system funds promoting the scheme.