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A senior banker at one of Turkey's largest banks got a break from a USA judge, who sentenced him to less than three years in prison for aiding an Iranian plot to evade sanctions and launder $1 billion in oil revenue through the US financial system.

A former manager at Turkey's state-run Halkbank, Atilla was convicted by a federal jury in January for helping funnel billions to Iran in violation of US sanctions.

Prosecutors had sought a sentence of about 20 years for Atilla, who worked as a deputy general manager at Halkbank.

But Judge Berman indicated that Mr. Atilla's role did not warrant the longer sentence the government was seeking. Indeed, the US-based prosecution has alleged that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan greenlighted the evasion scheme, which has prompted Erdogan to hit back with accusations that Washington is hatching a plot to undermine his country's reputation.

Atilla has already served 14 months in prison since his arrest last year during a business trip to New York.That time will be credited toward his sentence, allowing him to return to Turkey in about a year.

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US prosecutors accused Atilla, 47, of working with a Turkish-Iranian gold trader from 2010 to 2015 to help Iran evade sanctions by disguising the oil sales as fraudulent gold trades and food-aid transactions.

"This is a case about nuclear capability by the world's biggest state sponsor of terrorism", Lockard said.

"It is so serious that everybody is a victim of it", the prosecutor said.

According to prosecutors, the central figure in the scheme was wealthy Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab, who pleaded guilty to fraud, conspiracy and money laundering charges, and testified for several days as the US government's star witness against Atilla.

Berman said the lengthier prison terms recommended would be "inappropriate, unreasonable and unfair".

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Zarrab is still awaiting sentencing, the Justice Department said. His conviction followed a four-week trial in which Atilla testified in his own defense.

According to prosecutors, the central figure in the scheme was wealthy Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab, who pleaded guilty to fraud, conspiracy and money-laundering charges. He is married to Turkish pop star and TV personality Ebru Gundes.

Zarrab, who has yet to be sentenced, testified during Atilla's trial that he bribed Turkish officials, and that Erdogan personally signed off on parts of the scheme while serving as Turkey's prime minister.

Watched intensely from NY to Istanbul, the proceedings ended with a likewise extraordinary 32-month sentence, a prison term lower than what prosecutors or even defense attorneys requested. "I hope it doesn't yield a result that will completely destroy Turkish-US relations", he added.

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