US prosecutor drops appeal to extend Turkish banker’s sentence

A thaw in relations has resulted in Turkey and the US discussing the return of Hakan Atilla to Turkey, where he can serve the remainder of his sentence. Above, a branch of Halkbank in Istanbul. (AFP)
Updated 07 December 2018
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US prosecutor drops appeal to extend Turkish banker’s sentence

  • A US court sentenced Hakan Atilla, an executive from Halkbank, to 32 months in prison in May for helping Iran evade US sanctions
  • Tensions between the NATO allies accelerated a lira sell-off this year, although the currency’s performance has improved in tandem with diplomatic ties

ANKARA: New York prosecutors have withdrawn an appeal to extend the sentence of a former executive at Turkey’s state-owned lender Halkbank, said Turkey’s state-owned Anadolu news agency.

Halkbank shares rose nearly 4 percent after the report as market participants saw the move as further indication of an improvement in diplomatic ties between Washington and Ankara.

A US court sentenced Hakan Atilla, an executive from Halkbank, to 32 months in prison in May for helping Iran evade US sanctions in a case that has strained already tense ties between NATO allies Ankara and Washington.

Halkbank, which denies any wrongdoing, has since faced potential US fines in relation to the case, which Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has condemned as a political attack against his government.

The Turkish news agency Anadolu, without citing sources, said the New York prosecutor’s office had originally filed the appeal, saying the sentence was too short. It said the court had asked prosecutors to present details of the appeal by Dec. 6, but that the appeal had later been withdrawn.

No further details were immediately available and the New York prosecutor’s office was not available for comment, having yet to open on Friday morning.

Halkbank’s dollar-denominated bonds jumped 0.74 cents to 84.70 cents after the report.

Last month, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said after talks with US officials in Washington that the two sides had discussed returning Atilla to Turkey where he can serve the rest of his sentence.

Erdogan also said last month that he had discussed the case of Halkbank with US President Donald Trump, saying the talks were on a “positive path.” He said, without elaborating, that Trump had told him “he would instruct the relevant ministers immediately” regarding the case.

Atilla is expected to be released on July 25, Anadolu said. He had already served 14 months when he was sentenced.

“It is good news that the US prosecutor’s office is not appealing to have the sentence prolonged or extended — it’s a sign of improving relations between Turkey and the US,” said SEB’s Per Hammarlund.

Tensions between the NATO allies accelerated a lira sell-off this year, although the currency’s performance has improved in tandem with diplomatic ties.

Relations between Ankara and Washington began to improve after US pastor Andrew Brunson, who was on trial over terror-related charges in Turkey, was released in October.

They remain divided on a host of other issues, including US policy in Syria and Turkey’s request for the United States to extradite Fethullah Gulen, a cleric Ankara blames for organizing the 2016 abortive putsch. Gulen denies involvement.


US intelligence says Huawei funded by Chinese state security: report

Updated 20 April 2019
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US intelligence says Huawei funded by Chinese state security: report

  • The accusation comes at a time of trade tensions between Washington and Beijing
  • Huawei dismissed the allegations

US intelligence has accused Huawei Technologies of being funded by Chinese state security, The Times said on Saturday, adding to the list of allegations faced by the Chinese technology company in the West.
The CIA accused Huawei of receiving funding from China’s National Security Commission, the People’s Liberation Army and a third branch of the Chinese state intelligence network, the British newspaper reported, citing a source.
Earlier this year, US intelligence shared its claims with other members of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing group, which includes Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, according to the report.
Huawei dismissed the allegations in a statement cited by the newspaper.
“Huawei does not comment on unsubstantiated allegations backed up by zero evidence from anonymous sources,” a Huawei representative told The Times.
The company, the CIA and Chinese state security agencies did not respond immediately to requests for comment.
The accusation comes at a time of trade tensions between Washington and Beijing and amid concerns in the United States that Huawei’s equipment could be used for espionage. The company has said the concerns are unfounded.
Authorities in the United States are probing Huawei for alleged sanctions violations.
Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer and daughter of its founder, Ren Zhengfei, was arrested in Canada in December at the request of the United States on charges of bank and wire fraud in violation of US sanctions against Iran.
She denies wrongdoing and her father has previously said the arrest was “politically motivated.”
Amid such charges, top educational institutions in the West have recently severed ties with Huawei to avoid losing federal funding.
Another Chinese technology company, ZTE Corp. , has also been at the center of similar controversies in the United States.
US sanctions forced ZTE to stop most business between April and July last year after Commerce Department officials said it broke a pact and was caught illegally shipping US-origin goods to Iran and North Korea. The sanctions were lifted after ZTE paid $1.4 billion in penalties.
Reuters reported earlier this week that the United States will push its allies at a meeting in Prague next month to adopt shared security and policy measures that will make it more difficult for Huawei to dominate 5G telecommunications networks.