By Safvan Allahverdi
A Turkish banker was found guilty Wednesday by a jury in New York on five charges related to conspiracy and bank fraud but was acquitted of money laundering.
The verdict by a panel of six men and six women against Mehmet Hakan Atilla, 47, the former deputy chief executive officer of Turkey’s Halkbank, was reached after more than three weeks of testimony and four days of deliberation.
The guilty counts include violating U.S. sanctions against Iran, crimes to deceive the U.S. and defrauding U.S. banks.
"I am disappointed that the jury believed in [Reza] Zarrab and they did not see the picture." Katy Fleming, one of the Atilla's lawyers told a small group of reporters after verdict. "It is disappointing for people who like Atilla."
The Reza referred to is Reza Zarrab, the government’s star witness and on whose testimony the case hinged.
The Turkish businessman was arrested in the U.S. in 2016 on similar charges and pleaded guilty just prior to the start of the trial before he testified for prosecutors against Atilla.
The case has driven a further wedge between Washington and Ankara that have had strained relations in the recent past.
Turkey has accused the U.S. of judicial overreach in the case.
Defense lawyer Victor Rocco said his client was a victim of “some bizarre game.
"He is caught up in the middle of something. This was Reza’s show. It has nothing to the with Atilla,” he said outside the court following the verdict.
"He is innocent and he intends to continue to fight," Rocco added.
Judge Richard Berman will sentence Atilla on April 11 but defense attorneys said they would immediately appeal the verdict after sentencing.
Atilla’s defense team tried unsuccessfully to obtain a mistrial on grounds that a report was introduced late in the trial and it was not included in the list of evidence material at the start of the trial.
The request to throw out the case came after prosecutors questioned Atilla based on the report prepared by a fugitive member of the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), Osman Zeki Canitez, in an attempt to strengthen the government’s case.
The report was not among the evidence and was misguiding to the jury, according to the defense.
FETO and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gulen are accused of orchestrating the July 15, 2016, failed coup that was beat back in Turkey but left 250 martyrs and nearly 2,200 injured.
The defense also appealed for a mistrial based on testimony from another FETO fugitive, Huseyin Korkmaz, who they said “submitted stolen evidence” and “testified wrongly”.
The disgraced former police official admitted in court he had stolen documents related to an investigation and roundup of scores of FETO suspects in Turkey in late 2013.
A second mistrial request earlier this week was denied because Atilla “received a thoroughly fair and transparent trial”, Berman wrote in his ruling.