US-convicted Turkish banker resigns as Istanbul stock exchange chief

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A top Turkish banker convicted in the US of busting sanctions on Iran resigned on Monday as the chief executive of the Istanbul stock exchange, state media reported.

Mehmet Hakan Atilla, who served as deputy director general of Turkish lender Halkbank, was convicted in 2018 of plotting to help Iran evade US sanctions in a multi-billion dollar gold-for-oil scheme.

Atilla was released from jail in the US in 2019 after spending two years behind bars, and was named head of the stock exchange in October 2019.

Atilla resigned “of his own accord,” the Borsa Istanbul exchange said in a statement, quoted by state news agency Anadolu.

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A US federal court is expected to put Halkbank on trial later this year after charging it with six counts of fraud, money laundering and sanctions offences in 2019.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has dismissed the claims, insisting the case against Atilla was “politically motivated.”

The resignation comes with Turkey seeking to build a working relationship with the new administration of US President Joe Biden, who has yet to call Erdogan.

Relations between the two NATO allies remain strained over the Halkbank dispute, Syria and other international issues.

Turkey’s sovereign wealth fund, which owns Borsa Istanbul, is reportedly planning an initial public offering of the exchange operator next year.

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