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Turkish banker arrested in US on charges of violating Iran sanctions

A senior official at a state-owned Turkish bank has been detained in the United States on charges of helping Iran violate US sanctions against the country, the bank said Wednesday.

“Our deputy general manager in charge of international banking, Mehmet Hakan Atilla, was taken into custody in the United States where he was for business purposes on March 28,” Halkbank said in a statement.

Halkbank, owned by the Turkish state, said it was working with the authorities and would provide more information when available.

The state-run Anadolu news agency reported that Atilla was accused of two crimes by the chief prosecutor when he appeared in front of the judge in New York on Tuesday: conspiring to violate US sanctions against Iran and banking fraud.

The agency said Atilla faced up to 50 years in prison in a case that could cause tensions between Washington and Turkey ahead of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit to Ankara on Thursday.

Atilla is accused of working with Reza Zarrab, an Iranian-Turkish gold mogul, and others to process millions of dollars of illegal transactions through US banks for the Iranian government and other Iranian institutions, Anadolu reported.

Zarrab, 33, was arrested in Miami in March last year en route to Disney World on charges that could see him sentenced to up to 30 years in prison.

The charges against Zarrab include conspiring to violate US sanctions against Iran, defraud US banks and launder money by helping Iranian entities transfer funds through US institutions.

Atilla is to appear again in court on April 10, Anadolu said, adding that he would remain in jail.


© Agence France-Presse