Turkey has named a banker convicted of sanctions-busting in the United States as the new chief executive of the Istanbul stock exchange, the finance minister has said.
The appointment of Mehmet Hakan Atilla, the former deputy director general of Halkbank, comes almost a week after US federal prosecutors filed criminal charges against the Turkish state-run bank.
Halkbank is accused of participating in a multi-billion-dollar scheme to evade economic sanctions against Iran.
Atilla was found guilty by a New York court in January 2018 of plotting to help Tehran evade US sanctions on Iranian oil proceeds.
He was released from prison in July 2019.
“After returning to his family and country following his wrongful conviction, Hakan Atilla’s period of relaxation has come to an end,” Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, who is President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s son-in-law, said on Monday.
“He will start work as the new Istanbul Stock Exchange managing director. I wish him and the stock exchange good luck.”
The stock exchange said in a statement: “Mehmet Hakan Atilla was elected as CEO at the Borsa Istanbul board meeting dated 21 October 2019. Atilla will act as CEO and board member.”
The decision to give such an important role to Atilla appears to be intended as a defiant message to US authorities during a moment of acute tension between Ankara and Washington, the AFP news agency reported.
Relations between Turkey and the US have been particularly strained since Ankara launched a cross-border offensive this month against a US-backed Syrian Kurdish militia viewed by Turkish officials as “terrorists”.
However, there have been multiple sources of tension between the Nato allies, including Washington’s failure to extradite a US-based preacher accused of ordering the failed coup in Turkey in 2016 and a row over Ankara’s purchase of the Russian-made S-400 missile defence system.
In response to the legal investigation, Halkbank accused US authorities of targeting Turkey because of the Turkish military operation in Syria launched on 9 October.
Atilla replaces Murat Cetinkaya, who became a deputy governor of the central bank in August.
Cetinkaya is not to be confused with the former central bank governor of the same name.
Source: Middle east eye