Mehmet Hakan Atilla is a former leader of the Halkbank public bank who served a prison sentence in New York for promoting the circumvention of the US embargo against Iran.
Addressing a snub in the United States, its old partner in NATO, Turkey has decided to appoint Mehmet Hakan Atilla, a former leader of the Halkbank public bank who served a prison sentence in Manhattan at the post Managing Director of the Istanbul Stock Exchange.
This is one more episode in the Halkbank saga, a legal case that has plagued Turkish-American relations since 2017 and where the Turkish government and the US administration play the leading role.
In May 2018, Mr. Atilla was sentenced to 32 months in prison by a New York court for promoting the circumvention of the US embargo against Iran. He returned to Turkey in July 2019, where he was welcomed as a hero.
Announced Monday evening by Berat Albayrak, the Minister of Economy and Finance who is also the son-in-law of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, his appointment constitutes the Turkish risposte to the recent decision of the US Department of Justice to engage lawsuits against Halkbank.
The public bank, for which Atilla was working before his arrest in New York in 2017, is accused of circumventing US sanctions against Iran. "This is one of the most serious violations of the sanctions regime ever seen"says the Department of Justice press release issued Oct. 15, the day the lawsuit was announced.
The action of justice, which had stalled since the end of the Atilla trial in 2018, regained momentum just as the Turkish army had just launched an assault on Kurdish fighters in the north east of the country. Syria, a brutal intervention, which threw 300,000 Syrians on the roads of the exodus, provoking the condemnations of the traditional allies of Turkey.
The weakened Turkish banking sector
This detail did not escape Halkbank, convinced that the American justice seeks in reality to punish Turkey for its military intervention. So far, the interests of the Turkish bank have been defended by Ballard Partners, a pressure group with a strong interpersonal relationship with the US administration since its founder, Brian Ballard, is also one of the largest fundraisers in the US. US President Donald Trump in Florida.
In the wake of the bank's indictment, Ballard Partners terminated its contract with the Turkish government at $ 125,000 a month (€ 112,400), believing that its lobbying activity was ending there.