Turkey slams US sentencing of Turkish banker on Iran scheme

In this courtroom sketch Mehmet Hakan Atilla, second from left, listens to the judge during his sentencing, flanked by his attorneys Cathy Fleming, left, and Victor Rocco as Atilla’s wife, upper right, listens to the proceedings Wednesday, May 16, 2018, in New York. US District Judge Richard Berman imposed a sentence of 32 months in prison on the Turkish banker convicted of helping Iran evade US sanctions. (Elizabeth Williams via AP)
Updated 17 May 2018
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Turkey slams US sentencing of Turkish banker on Iran scheme

  • Turkish government spokesman Bekir Bozdag said Thursday on Twitter that no country has the right to “judge Turkey or Turkish institutions or punish Turkey.”
  • The trial of the banker has strained the ties further, even though Atilla received a sentence that was seen as lenient

ISTANBUL: Turkey has criticized the sentencing of a Turkish banker in the United States over his role in helping Iran evade US economic sanctions, in a case that has further strained ties between the two countries.
In a statement late Wednesday, the Foreign Ministry called the trial against Mehmet Hakan Atilla, an employee of Turkish state-run Halkbank, “an entirely feigned process which is inconsistent with the principle of fair trial.”
Turkish government spokesman Bekir Bozdag said Thursday on Twitter that no country has the right to “judge Turkey or Turkish institutions or punish Turkey.”
Bozdag accused the US and the court that tried the case of a plot against Turkey carried out in tandem with a US-based Muslim cleric, Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey accuses of leading a failed coup in 2016.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accuses Gulen of attempting to overthrow the Turkish government and has demanded that the US extradite him. Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania, has denied the allegations. His freedom in the US has angered Turkey and caused a rift between the NATO allies.
The trial of the banker has strained the ties further, even though Atilla received a sentence that was seen as lenient.
A US judge on Wednesday ordered Atilla to spend 32 months in prison, including 14 months he has already served after his arrest last year during a business trip to New York on behalf of Halkbank. The sentence means Atilla can return to Turkey in about a year.
US probation authorities had called for a life sentence and prosecutors had argued for a 20-year sentence.
Prosecutors maintained that Atilla used his position as Halkbank’s deputy general manager for international banking to help build and protect a scheme that enabled billions of dollars in profits from Iranian oil sales to flow through world financial markets since 2011.
The US judge justified the shorted sentence arguing that Atilla was just a reluctant “cog in the wheel” of the alleged scheme.
The trial, which ended in January, had featured testimony about corruption at top levels of the Turkish government.
The key witness in the case was Reza Zarrab, an Iranian-Turkish gold trader, who testified he paid over $50 million in bribes to a former Turkish finance minister to help the sanction-busting scheme.
But the testimony that drew Turkey’s fury was from a former Turkish deputy police chief involved in a 2013 corruption investigation into the Zarrab scheme that broadened to include top Turkish politicians.
The government has accused Huseyin Korkmaz of links to Gulen and had dubbed the 2013 investigation a “judicial coup” against the government.
The Foreign Ministry said the evidence presented “eradicated the legitimacy of the trial.”
It also said the court made an “unprecedented decision” in the implementation of US sanctions laws by convicting and sentencing Atilla, “a foreign government official.”


US tariffs trigger WTO spat escalation

Updated 3 min 50 sec ago
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US tariffs trigger WTO spat escalation

GENEVA: China, Russia and the European Union are among a string of countries asking the World Trade Organization to probe new US steel and aluminum tariffs, the world trade body said Friday.
Washington is meanwhile calling the WTO to investigate a number of retaliatory duties imposed by a range of countries, the agenda for the next meeting of the organization’s Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) showed.
The agenda for the DSB meeting set to be held on October 29 shows that the EU, China, Russia, Canada, Mexico, Norway and Turkey plan to ask for the creation of a panel of experts to review US President Donald Trump’s decision to hit them with tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum.
Marking a departure from a decades-long US-led drive for free trade, Trump has justified the steep tariffs with claims that massive flows of imports to the United States threaten national security.
The tariff spat has escalated into an all-out trade war between the US and China and growing trade tensions between Washington and many of its traditional allies.
The US is meanwhile planning to request that the DSB create another set of expert panels to review the legality of retaliatory tariffs imposed by China, Canada, the EU and Mexico.
The requests, which follow rounds of failed consultations, mark and escalation in an ongoing showdown at the WTO around Trump’s controversial trade policies.
Under WTO regulations, parties in a dispute can block a first request for the creation of an arbitration panel, but if the parties make a second request, it is all but guaranteed to go through.
“Once the panel is established and composed, the EU is ready to demonstrate that the United States’ import duties are WTO-inconsistent and to obtain a ruling that condemns the US and brings relief to the EU industry,” an EU Commission spokesperson said.
The creation of a DSB panel usually triggers a long and often costly legal battle that sometimes takes years to resolve.