A Turkish banker was found guilty Wednesday of helping Iran evade U.S. sanctions, concluding a trial that rocked the highest levels of Turkey’s government.


Halk Bank executive Mehmet Atilla, 47, was convicted of five counts, including conspiracy. He was acquitted of a money laundering charge.


Atilla was accused of orchestrating a complex Iranian oil for gold scheme. The transactions passed through U.S. financial institutions, violating sanctions against Iran.


“Foreign banks and bankers have a choice: You can choose willfully to help Iran and other sanctioned nations evade U.S. law, or you can choose to be part of the international banking community transacting in U.S. dollars. But you can’t do both,” acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon Kim said.

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“If you lie repeatedly to U.S. Treasury officials and fabricate documents — all as part of a secret scheme to smuggle billions of dollars in Iranian oil money past the U.S. sanctions net  — as Atilla did, then you should be prepared for the consequences.”


The government’s star witness, the flamboyant Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab, testified against Atilla. Zarrab admitted to paying more than $50 million in bribes to a senior Turkish official and implicated the country’s president, Recep Erdogan in the scheme.

Not Released (NR)

Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab, (c.), testified against Atilla as a star witness.

(Sebnem Cosku/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)


Erdogan has called the case “a plot against Turkey.”


Zarrab, who pleaded guilty before the start of trial as part of a cooperation agreement, has been rumored to have knowledge of misdeeds by President Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

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Flynn is reportedly under investigation for a conspiracy to kidnap a Turkish dissident living in the U.S. in exchange for $15 million from the Turkish government and Zarrab’s release.


Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI last month — shortly after it emerged that Zarrab flipped.

With With News Wire Services

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