By Sibel BlanchardJournalist and writer Cem Küçük voiced his opinion Friday on TGRT Haber’s Media Critic program regarding the arrest of Mehmet Hakan Atilla, deputy general manager of Turkish lender Halkbank.
Küçük, who is known to be close to the government, commented that “Mehmet Hakan Atilla will be tried for 50 years. Let me criticize Mehmet Hakan Atilla from the outset. What are you doing in America? If I were a Halkbank employee, I would not go to America.”
Last week, Atilla was arrested at a US airport over allegations of colluding with businessman Reza Zarrab in illegally funneling Iranian money into American banks, a violation of sanctions the US previously held over Iran. As deputy general manager at Halkbank, Atilla was in charge of managing international banking operations.
On the same program, Küçük further went onto say that, “According to state records, the FBI made note of everyone working at Halkbank’s critical sites before and after December 17-25. I am talking to all of Halkbank’s employees. Not only the managers, but all the employees, and everyone’s information was extracted one by one.”
The December 17-25 time frame referred to by Küçük is known as the 2013 corruption scandal, a criminal investigation that led to the 52 people being detained on the first day, all of whom had connections with the ruling AKP. Within the scope of this investigation, Süleyman Aslan, the then-director of Halkbank, was accused of working with Zarrab.
In addition to warning all Halkbank members against going to the US, Küçük also warned that former ministers Zafer Çağlayan, Muammer Güler, Egemen Bağiş, and Erdoğan Bayraktar – all of whom were arrested as part of the 2013 investigation – should refrain from travelling to the US as well, with the implication that they will be arrested.