Mr. Atilla was arrested at JFK airport in March 2017 in regard to an ongoing investigation of Reza Zarrab. An investigation started by Preet Bharara, former US Attorney for the Southern District of New York revealed via 40-page long indictment that Mr. Atilla was under FBI surveillance. According to the report prepared by FBI agent Jennifer A. McReynolds, Mehmet Hakan Atilla was arrested due to his activities between 2011 and 2015. Among these activities, the export of wheat from Dubai, UAE was reported whereas UAE is not a wheat producer at all.
In early April, Atilla’s indictment was combined with Reza Zarrab’s.
Among their submission papers, the attorney of Mr. Atilla claimed the errors were made in the translation of phone conversations between their client and Reza Zarrab in addition to the fact that none of the conversations contains any material that can be used against their client, claimed 20 page of dismissal demand.
While Mr. Zarrab is accused on four different accounts, Mr. Atilla is on two accounts: violations of the sanctions on Iran and bank fraud via counterfeit documents. The trial of both Zarrab and Atilla is expected to start by the end of October. Attorney Rocco requested the release of his client due to the absence of adequate evidence on these two accounts.
In addition, Attorney Rocco claimed that his client’s case must be separated from that of Reza Zarrab if his previous request of dismissal is declined.
Atilla wants his freedom through bail. The hearing regarding bail request is expected to be held on August 15.
According to the news stories based on the official Turkish police reports of 17 December investigation, Hakan Atilla was mentioned as follows:
“The corruption and bribery investigations revealed that Rıza Sarraf (Reza Zarrab) is accused of illegal gold trade as well as the wheat export from Dubai to Iran. According to the reports including the phone conversations, Sarraf was warned by Halkbank GM, Süleyman Aslan that it does not make sense to have wheat originated from Dubai. Saying that he is learning it step by step, Mr. Sarraf pointed out his inexperience in both gold trade and wheat export.”
There are many striking details in the conversations regarding the wheat export included in the reports among Mr. Sarraf, Süleyman Aslan and the deputy manager, Hakan Atilla and Abdullah Happani. According to the reports, Sarraf guides his work partner Happani along the recommendations of Aslan and requests him to be careful in his handling of wheat export. From Sarraf’s statements, it is understood that Mr. Aslan warns him and says “don’t make a mess out of this. How can the wheat originate from Dubai?” Mr. Atilla refers to a conversation of his with Mr. Sarraf that when the export was declared in the bank documents, the country origin for the wheat was specified as Dubai. He replies back to Mr. Sarraf, “the origin country of the wheat cannot be Dubai. They must be French to the subject.” Mr. Sarraf points out that they would provide the same documents to the bank, but wanted to get confirmed if only wheat is documented or not. Then Mr. Happani told him that first two items on the documents are sugarcane and the rest is wheat and grains like soy and corn.
Hearing for ‘dismissal’ demand by Atilla will be held on September 7.