December 4, 2017 / 6:42 PM / 11 days ago

Turkish banker says U.S. prosecutors withheld evidence

    NEW YORK, Dec 4 (Reuters) - Lawyers for a banker at Turkey's
state-owned Halkbank            who is charged with scheming to
violate U.S. sanctions against Iran accused U.S. prosecutors of
withholding evidence that might help exculpate their client.
They said this included gold trader Reza Zarrab's alleged
willingness to lie in exchange for leniency.
    In a letter on Monday to U.S. District Judge Richard Berman
in Manhattan, lawyers for Mehmet Hakan Atilla said prosecutors
on Saturday evening turned over important materials to them that
the judge ordered be turned over on Nov. 28, and that such a
delay makes it harder for the defense to prepare.
    The lawyers said these materials included a summary of a
Sept. 15, 2016 call when Zarrab, then held in a U.S. jail,
discussed with an individual named Ahad the perceived need when
incarcerated in the United States to lie "in order to get out or
to get a reduced sentence," and "admit to something you haven't
committed" to get out of prison.
    Ahad's identity could not immediately be determined from
court records.
    "Zarrab is proclaiming his willingness to fabricate
testimony out of whole cloth in order to obtain a reduced
sentence," Atilla's lawyers wrote in the letter. "The belated
production of  these statements not only violates this court's
November 28 order, but also significantly impairs the ability of
the defense to properly and effectively utilize them at trial."
    "Mr. Zarrab understands his obligation to provide fully
truthful testimony," Robert Anello, a lawyer for Zarrab, said in
an email.
    A spokesman for Acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim in Manhattan,
whose office is prosecuting the case, declined to comment.
    Prosecutors were in court on Monday, where Zarrab is
testifying for a fourth day.
    Zarrab has pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with
prosecutors. Atilla has pleaded not guilty.
    Prosecutors have alleged that nine defendants took part in a
scheme from 2010 to 2015 that involved gold trades and fake
purchases of food to give Iran access to international markets,
violating U.S. sanctions. Only Zarrab, 34, and Atilla, 47, have
been arrested by U.S. authorities.
    In Monday's letter, Atilla's lawyers also renewed arguments
that they have not had enough time to review materials turned
over by prosecutors, making it harder for their client to get a
fair trial.

 (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Alden
Bentley)
  

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