Turkish banker’s motion to be acquitted of US-Iran sanctions evasion dismissed

HalkbankWe previously reported that Mehmet Hakan Atilla, an executive at Turkey’s majority state-owned Halkbank, had been found guilty in a New York Court of conspiracy to violate US sanctions against Iran.

Yesterday, the judge in the trial – US District Judge Richard Berman – dismissed Mr. Atilla’s motion for judgment of acquittal under Fed. R. Crim. P. 29(a) (that motion was made at the close of the US Government’s case, however, the court had informed the parties of its intention to elect not to resolve the motion until the close of all the evidence). In dismissing the motion, the judge held that the evidence presented against Mr. Atilla had been “clearly sufficient” to support the jury’s verdict.

Mr. Atilla is scheduled to be sentenced on 11 April 2018.

Full resumption of visas between US and Turkey

Turkey-US2On 28 December 2017, the US Department of State announced the full resumption of visa services in Turkey following “high-level assurances” having been adhered to by the Turkish Government.

On the same day, the Turkish Embassy in Washington DC issued a statement welcoming the decision of the US and simultaneously lifted its visa restrictions on American citizens. The statement also declares that the Turkish Government gave no such assurances, and that it was “inappropriate [of the US] to misinform [the] Turkish and American public that such assurances [had been] provided”.

We previously reported on the initial visa suspensions between the two states in October (see here), as well as the limited resumption of visas which followed in November (see here).

Turkish banker convicted in US Iran sanctions evasion trial

Turkey-USA BreakupYesterday, Turkish banker Mehmet Hakan Atilla was found guilty by a federal jury in New York of conspiracy to violate US sanctions against Iran. The scheme consisted of a money-laundering network facilitated by Turkish state bank Halkbank, which allowed Iran to gain access to international markets in contravention of US sanctions. Although nine defendants had been charged in the case, Mr Atilla was the only one who stood trial (seven other defendants are still at large). Co-defendant Reza Zarrab, a Turkish-Iranian businessman, previously pleaded guilty in the scheme and gave evidence in the trial against Mr Atilla (see previous blog here).

Mr Atilla is scheduled to be sentenced on 11 April 2018, whilst Mr Zarrab’s sentencing has yet to be listed. Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has issued a press release, describing the guilty verdict as an “unjust and unfortunate development”, see here.

Mr Zarrab pleads guilty to US Iran sanctions evasion

Reza Zarrab.jpgReza Zarrab, a Turkish-Iranian businessman, has pleaded guilty in a New York court to conspiracy to violating US sanctions against Iran. Mr. Zarrab gave evidence of a money-laundering network between 2010 to 2015, facilitated by a Turkish state bank, which allowed Iran to gain access to international markets, in contravention of US sanctions. He gave evidence against a co-defendant (Mehmet Hakan Atilla, a banker at the Turkish bank), and gave details of bribes paid to Turkish government officials (over $50m) as part of the scheme.

Limited resumption of visas between US and Turkey

Turkey-USA Breakup2On 8 October 2017, the US announced that it had suspended the processing of all non-immigrant visa applications in Turkey due to “recent events” (with Turkey having responded in like terms) (see previous blog here).

Almost a month later, the US Department of State has announced that on the basis of “preliminary assurances” from the Government of Turkey, it believes that “the security posture has improved sufficiently to allow for the resumption of limited visa services in Turkey”. In response, the Turkish Embassy in Washington DC has stated that it would also resume processing visa applications for US nationals on a “limited basis”.

 

Visa suspensions between Turkey and US

Turkey-USA BreakupOn 8 October, the US announced that it had suspended the processing of all non-immigrant visa applications in Turkey due to “recent events”, which appears to be linked to the arrest last week of a US embassy employee in Istanbul. Turkey responded the following day with a matching statement, suspending the processing of all non-immigrant visa applications in its embassy and consulate in the US.

Turkey to consider sanctions on Kurdish northern Iraq

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that his country is considering imposing sanctions on Kurdish northern Iraq in response to the regional administration’s plans for an independence referendum. Although Turkey has a significant trading relationship with the region, it says that it is opposed to its independence on the basis that it may lead to new conflict in the Middle East. Turkey’s government is expected to make a formal response to the situation on Friday.

Russia agrees to lift most of its sanctions on Turkey

Russia has agreed to lift most of the sanctions it imposed on Turkey after the latter shot down a Russian plane near the Turkish-Syrian border in 2015 (details not yet released).  Several restrictions on tourism to Turkey have already been lifted, and the Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildrim said that “remaining sanctions in sectors like construction, consultancy, tourism, and wood would be lifted this month”.  A ban on Turkish tomatoes, one of Turkey’s key agricultural exports, will remain in place, and the visa ban on Turkish nationals.