Turkish banker released from US prison

Erdogan's government has called the trial a "plot" and he has demanded the release of Zarrab and defendant, Mehmet Hakan Atilla, the deputy chief executive of Turkish lender Halkbank. (File/AFP)
Updated 20 July 2019

Turkish banker released from US prison

  • Mehmet Hakan Atilla, 47, deputy director general of Turkish lender Halkbank, was arrested in March 2017 and convicted the following year on five counts of bank fraud and conspiracy following a five-week trial in New York
  • Erdogan has repeatedly rejected the allegations, saying Turkey did not violate the US embargo on Iran and that political rivals were behind the case

NEW YORK: A Turkish banker convicted for plotting to help Iran evade American sanctions on Iranian oil proceeds has been released from US prison, according to his lawyer and prison officials.
Mehmet Hakan Atilla, 47, deputy director general of Turkish lender Halkbank, was arrested in March 2017 and convicted the following year on five counts of bank fraud and conspiracy following a five-week trial in New York.
He was handed over to immigration police on Friday pending his deportation to Turkey, his lawyer Victor Rocco told AFP. Prison authorities confirmed his release.
Atilla claimed that he had only played a minor role in the scheme and acted as executor of instructions by the bank’s director general — an argument accepted by the court.
Prosecutors had wanted a 20-year sentence for the banker.
His conviction hinged on the testimony of Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab, who was arrested by US authorities in 2016 after jetting to Florida with his pop-star wife and child on a family holiday to Disney World.
Zarrab, 34, initially pleaded not guilty then flipped, becoming a US government witness after admitting being involved in the multi-billion-dollar gold-for-oil scheme to subvert US economic sanctions against Iran.
His testimony identified Atilla as a key organizer in the scheme, but also implicated former Turkish ministers and even President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Testifying in court last November, Zarrab said he was told that Erdogan, as prime minister in 2012, and treasury minister Ali Babacan gave “instructions” to two public banks to take part in the scheme.
Erdogan has repeatedly rejected the allegations, saying Turkey did not violate the US embargo on Iran and that political rivals were behind the case.
Zarrab’s sentence is not known, as many of the documents in his case have remained confidential.


Philippine court dismisses case seeking $3.9bn of Marcos wealth

Updated 44 min 41 sec ago

Philippine court dismisses case seeking $3.9bn of Marcos wealth

  • The country’s anti-graft court decided in favor of the Marcoses for the fourth time since August
  • Judges ruled that photocopied documents could not be used as evidence, so the case would not proceed

MANILA: A Philippine court threw out a high-profile, 32-year-old forfeiture case on Monday involving the family of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, citing insufficient evidence to order the return of $3.9 billion of allegedly ill-gotten wealth.
The country’s anti-graft court decided in favor of the Marcoses for the fourth time since August, with judges ruling that photocopied documents could not be used as evidence, so the case would not proceed.
It has been referred to widely as the “mother” of cases in a three-decade effort by a special presidential panel to recover an estimated $10 billion allegedly siphoned off by Marcos and a family that had lived lavishly during his 20 years in power, 14 of which were ruled under martial law.
The case lodged by the Presidential Commission on Good Government had sought the return of 200 billion pesos ($3.93 billion) it said was tied up in equities, numerous local and foreign banks and real estate at home and in the United States and United Kingdom.
It also included the value of 177 paintings and 42 crates of jewelry worth nearly $9 million.
In a 58-page verdict, the court “acknowledged the atrocities committed during martial law under the Marcos regime and the ‘plunder’ committed on the country’s resources.”
“However, absent sufficient evidence that may lead to the conclusion that the subject properties were indeed ill-gotten wealth, the court cannot simply order the return of the same to the national treasury.”
The same court dismissed similar cases against the family in August, September and October, all for lack of evidence.
Despite being overthrown in a 1986 revolt and driven into exile, the Marcos family remain a powerful force in the Philippines, with loyalists throughout the bureaucracy and political and business elite.
The late leader’s wife Imelda was a four-term congresswoman, daughter Imee is currently a senator, as was son and namesake Ferdinand Marcos Jr, who has been tipped as a possible candidate for the presidency in 2022. A relative is the current Philippine ambassador to the United States.
The family has a powerful ally too in President Rodrigo Duterte, who has spoken well of the former dictator, backed Imee’s senate run and expressed a desire for Marcos Jr to have been his vice president.