U.S. Judge Delays Turkish Banker’s Sentencing in Iran Sanctions Case

FILE PHOTO: Turkey's Halkbank headquarters are seen in Ankara December 17, 2013. REUTERS/Umit Bektas/File Photo

NEW YORK, April 9 (Reuters) – A federal judge in Manhattan on Monday delayed by nearly four weeks the sentencing of a Turkish banker convicted in January of helping Iran evade U.S. sanctions.

Mehmet Hakan Atilla, 47, a former deputy general manager at Turkey’s state-controlled Halkbank, is now scheduled to learn his punishment on May 7, instead of April 11.

U.S. District Judge Richard Berman cited “the number of issues raised by the parties in their (extensive) sentencing submissions” as a reason to delay Atilla’s sentencing.

Prosecutors said Atilla conspired with gold trader Reza Zarrab and others in using fraudulent gold and food transactions to help Iran evade sanctions, which targeted the movement of oil proceeds and U.S. bank note and precious metals transactions

Zarrab has pleaded guilty, and testified against Atilla for several days as the U.S. government’s star witness.

Prosecutors have asked Berman to sentence Atilla to around 20 years in prison, calling the Turkish national a “key player” in trying to undermine U.S. sanctions, and saying a significant sentence is needed to deter others.

Atilla’s lawyers have urged leniency, saying the case did not involve “economic crimes” or a “crime of American disloyalty” by their client.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has denounced the case, calling it a politically motivated attack on his government.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York. Editing by Bill Rigby)