A new video released by the Turkish media shows the moment when Turkish banker Mehmet Hakan Atilla, the only defendant in a high-profile U.S. case, was taken into federal custody by U.S. law enforcement officials in New York City early this year.
One male and female U.S. official appear to be in a room with Hakan Atilla, along with a translator. Unaware of what awaits him, Mr. Atilla appears calm and cooperative with the officials during their briefing until he finds out why they stopped him.
“Last year, you probably have heard we arrested Reza. And he is currently in prison awaiting trial,” the female official tells him. Mr. Atilla nods and even makes a joke about it.
But to his surprise, the official says he is detained, too.
The moment Hakan Atilla, a Turkish banker, is arrested in New York as part of an investigation into Reza Zarrab. pic.twitter.com/oUzlUCfXbi
— The Globe Post (@TGlobePost) December 7, 2017
“Yes, so we just want to explain that you are being detained today. Because we have evidence about your involvement with Reza and his efforts to avoid U.S. sanctions,” the official says.
Stunned and appalled, Mr. Atill reacts in disbelief: “Impossible.”
“Well, before you say anything we understand that there are others who played a more significant effort than you in this effort,” she continues to say. “And we believe that you have information about these people.”
“I don’t want to say anything,” Mr. Atilla replies, noting that he was already detained.
“It is not detention. There is a warrant for your arrest. You are under arrest,” the male official says, leaving the Turkish banker shudder. To his dismay, the same official notifies him that he will be processed for activities related to Reza Zarrab.
The stunned Atilla switches to Turkish language and then talks to the translator. Mr. Atilla appears to be totally surprised.
In defense, he says he has no personal relationship with Mr. Zarrab and says Zarrab was dealing with the bank. “It is not related to my person.”
“It was related to the bank. If it was related to me, why am I in the U.S? Do I look like a stupid?” he demurs in indignation.
The official then searches his body and belongings in security check procedure.
The video reveals that the banker, who is now the only defendant after Turkish-Iranian businessman Zarrab flipped and began to cooperate with the U.S. prosecutors as a “star witness” in the sanctions-busting trial, had no concern about visiting the U.S.
With a firm belief in his innocence, he never considered that his work at Halkbank, which facilitated Mr. Zarrab’s gold-for-oil arrangement on behalf of the Iranian government, would create problems for him.
When prosecutors announced last week that Mr. Zarrab would testify at the court, Halkbank executive Atilla’s lawyer Victor Rocco told jurors that his client was a hard-working civil servant caught up in a “swirling, huge international storm of intrigue, lies and massive corruption,” according to Bloomberg.
“Atilla is just another one of Reza Zarrab’s many victims,” the lawyer said.
During his questioning of the Mr. Zarrab consistency on Tuesday, lawyer Cathy Fleming focused on how weak the relationship between the gold trader and Mr. Atilla. She revealed that they were not fond of each other.
Mr. Zarrab mostly carried out his scheme through Suleyman Aslan, former CEO of Halkbank.
But prosecutors believe that it was Hakan Atilla who orchestrated the entire sanctions-evasion scheme in Halkbank, a technocrat who discovered the loopholes in the U.S. sanctions and guided both Mr. Zarrab and then-General Manager Aslan.