NEW YORK – A jury did not reach a verdict in its first day of deliberations Wednesday in the trial of a Turkish banker accused of helping Iran evade U.S. sanctions and launder billions of dollars in oil revenue.
The deliberations began early in the afternoon in a Manhattan courtroom after U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman read instructions on the law to jurors. They went home four hours later after requesting pens, highlighters, Post-it notes and coffee.
The coffee is notable since one juror was dismissed after repeatedly falling asleep in the early days of the monthlong trial of Halkbank executive Mehmet Hakan Atilla.
The trial has been followed closely in Turkey as testimony focused on bribery and corruption at high levels of government and the banking business there.
Turkish officials have lobbed counter-accusations that U.S. prosecutors are basing the case on evidence fabricated by enemies of the state.
Beyond asking for organizational materials and coffee, the jury on Wednesday sent no notes that would give insight into where the deliberations are going.
A focus of the discussion likely is the testimony of Reza Zarrab, a gold trader who once was the sole defendant but who began cooperating after Atilla's March arrest and after efforts to reach a diplomatic solution to the charges failed.
Zarrab, who pleaded guilty in October to conspiring to help Iran launder billions of dollars in oil and gas revenue, testified for over a week that Atilla was an important architect of the plan to bypass U.S. economic sanctions against Iran.
But he conceded that Atilla was not among bank executives and Turkish officials who received tens of thousands of dollars in bribes since 2011.
Turkish officials said Zarrab's testimony was coerced, an allegation the U.S. has called "ridiculous."
Atilla's lawyer, Victor Rocco, said his client is not corrupt and was the victim of a conspiracy carried out by Zarrab and Atilla's banking boss.
Atilla testified in his own defense, saying he followed the law.