Turkish Banker in Iran Sanctions-Busting Case Denies Charges

Updated on
  • Atilla enters not guilty plea in hearing in Manhattan court
  • Defense lawyers say they may seek postponement of August trial

A Turkish banker charged with joining in a scheme to launder money through the U.S. financial system on behalf of Iran pleaded not guilty.

Mehmet Hakan Atilla, a deputy chief executive at Turkiye Halk Bankasi AS, one of Turkey’s largest banks, entered his plea Thursday in Manhattan federal court. Atilla is accused of using his bank to help Reza Zarrab, a Turkish-American businessman, disguise transactions on behalf of Iran as food deals that are allowed as an exception to U.S. sanctions on Iran.

Atilla was arrested at New York’s John F. Kennedy airport on March 27 and is being held without bail in a local jail. Trial in the case against him and Zarrab is set for August 21, but defense lawyers said they may ask for a later date in order to investigate the case.

Zarrab has hired ex-New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former U.S. attorney general Michael Mukasey to try to seek a resolution to his case, in part by requesting meetings with high-level U.S. officials, according to a court filing by federal prosecutors. A hearing on their activities is scheduled for April 24.

The judge on Thursday also set a schedule for the filing of various pretrial legal motions.

The case is U.S. v. Zarrab, 15-cr-867, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York.

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