Star federal witness at sanctions-busting trial testifies

The Turkish president has demanded the release of Zarrab and defendant Mehmet Hakan Atilla the deputy chief executive of Turkish lender Halkbank

The Turkish president has demanded the release of Zarrab and defendant Mehmet Hakan Atilla the deputy chief executive of Turkish lender Halkbank

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called the NY trial of a Turkish banker accused of conspiring to help Iran evade US sanctions "blackmail" and a "blemish" on his country.

US prosecutors say claims the trial resulted from political maneuvering are "ridiculous".

Since Zarrab became a witness, deputy chief executive of Turkish lender Halkbank Mehmet Hakan Atilla is now the lone defendant in the dock accused of violating sanctions, bribery and money laundering.

Zarrab, 34, is testifying against Mehmet Hakan Atilla, an executive at Turkey's state-owned Halkbank, who is on trial for his role in the scheme to launder $1 bn through USA banks to Iran in direct violation of U.S. sanctions. He said that Atilla had continued to participate in the Iranian Regime's sanctions evasion scheme long after the Turkish investigation was dropped.

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The scheme was first uncovered by Turkish police in 2013, but Zarrab and other participants were freed and police and prosecutors purged by Erdogan, who said the accusations were part of an anti-government plot by political opponents.

And wrapping up his testimony on Tuesday was gold trader Reza Zarrab, who has levelled corruption allegations against Turkey's top leadership. During cross-examination, Zarrab admitted that unlike the bank's manager Atilla never got bribes and met with Zarrab only a "handful" of times during the 4 years the bank was involved.

Zarrab, 34, was arrested by U.S. authorities in March 2016 on suspicion of taking part in the alleged sanctions-busting scam but is now cooperating with the authorities in an apparent plea bargain. He testified that he might be permitted to be released on bail once the trial is finished. His testimony likely will win him leniency at sentencing. Turkish authorities have detained 17 people linked to Zarrab in an investigation launched after he cooperated with US authorities.

The three detained initially are accused of sending documents to the U.S. regarding the case and links to the group of Fethullah Gulen who Ankara accuses of masterminding the July 15, 2016 failed coup.

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