Openings statements set in trial of Turkish bank executive

Turkish-Iranian businessman to testify at US trial

The trial of a Turkish banker charged with helping Iran evade economic sanctions is set to begin Tuesday after a jury was selected in NY.

Zarrab was arrested by USA authorities in March 2016 while Atilla, the deputy chief executive of Turkey's state-owned Halkbank, was taken into custody in March 2017. Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said on November 27 that the case against Turkish-Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab and banker Mehmet Hakan Atilla had "no legal basis" and should be "dropped or terminated".

The government in Turkey, where Zarrab is well-known, has depicted the trial as a conspiracy. The development deepened the mystery surrounding the case and renewed speculation that Zarrab has cut a deal with prosecutors to testify rather than go on trial.

James Margolin, a spokesman for USA prosecutors in Manhattan, declined to comment on whether Zarrab was cooperating with the authorities.

Prosecutors said in a court filing four weeks ago that Zarrab once told another defendant he had spoken with Erdogan directly about the alleged scheme.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan's government has said the case has been fabricated for political motives.

Zarrab, 33, was a no-show again on Monday, with U.S. District Judge Richard Berman telling prospective jurors that Atilla is "the only defendant in this trial".

Attilla has pleaded not guilty to charges alleging he violated US sanctions against Iran by processing hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of financial transactions for Iranian businesses or Iran's government through American banks. Authorities say those transactions are banned by US and global sanctions. Caglayan has denied the charges. He was released from a US jail earlier this month but is said to remain in USA custody.

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

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