Top banker despairs of the appeal of Halkbank in the US
A former senior executive at Turkey's state-run Halkbank, convicted by the U.S. of helping Iran evade U.S. sanctions, said prosecutors "could have saved some critical questions about the Turkish government for another round," and said he was not optimistic about a critical hearing Tuesday at which the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether to continue a case against the bank itself on the same charges.
Atilla, who spent 2.5 years in a U.S. federal prison in 2018 after the court found him guilty of helping Iran evade U.S sanctions in a multibillion-dollar gold-for-oil deal, said in an interview with the Turkish website T24 that he was not optimistic about the Halkbank case and answered questions about his career, which he detailed in his book America vs. Hakan Atilla
He also said that Ali Babacan, who was the economy minister at the time and now leads an opposition party, should have known about what was going on at the bank.
"I think he knows everything. If he did not, it would mean he could not do his job. It does not make sense that as the minister in charge of the economy, he did not know about the billions of dollars of transactions, trade or consultations with the U.S, Attila said.
Atilla was released from prison in 2019 and returned to Turkey, where he was hailed as a hero and appointed head of the Istanbul Stock Exchange, only to resign after a year and a half. Today, he lives in a summer home in the western Turkish coastal town of Cesme, far from political or economic turmoil.
He said he could not get along with the government-appointed members of the committee, unlike himself, who "tries to do his job as a bureaucrat."
"I have never thought of myself as a government bureaucrat. Of course, since governments are responsible for execution, bureaucrats work with every government, but that does not mean I share the same opinion politically or agree with the policy," he said.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear an appeal by Halkbank to avoid charges of money laundering, bank fraud and conspiracy for allegedly helping Iran evade economic sanctions. This case has been ranked as the first of the biggest U.S. Supreme Court cases of 2023 by Law & Crime, one of the most prominent networks reporting on legal news in the U.S.