Halkbank of Turkey should face US statement about Iran sanctions violations

A US judge on Thursday rejected to refuse a statement accusing state-owned Turkish lender Halkbank of helping Iran to avoid American sanctions.

Indeed, US District Judge, Richard Berman, in Manhattan refused Halkbank’s alleges that the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act protected it from prosecution, and said that the law did not seem that it grants immunity in criminal proceedings.

He also reported that an exception for commercial activity would clearly apply and support the Halkbank prosecution, indicating that the interactions of the bank with US Treasury Department officials and its claimed laundering of more than $1 billion via the US financial system. However, the lawyers for Halkbank based in the US did not immediately respond to requests for comment, and also the Department of Justice didn’t instantly respond to similar requests.

Moreover, Halkbank has declared that it is not involved in bank fraud; money laundering, and conspiracy charges that were brought last October. The prosecutors of the US accused Halkbank of using money servicers and front companies in Iran, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates to avoid sanctions, which allowing oil and gas revenue to be spent on gold and facilitating sham food and medicine purchases. They also accused Halkbank in the fact that it helps secretly Iran to transfer $20 billion of the restricted funds by another way, including the $1 billion via US accounts.

Furthermore, Halkbank has separately requested the federal calls trial in Manhattan to replace Berman with a different judge because of his claimed bias, which is an accusation denied by Berman.

In fact, Berman has supervised many related cases, including the 2018 conviction of former Halkbank executive Mehmet Hakan Atilla and a guilty plea by Reza Zarrab, who is a wealthy Turkish-Iranian gold trader who testified against Atilla. The case of Halkbank has added tension to US-Turkish ties, and got renewed attention in former US national security adviser John Bolton’s recent memoir, who writes that Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan gave in 2018 US President Donald Trump a note that said Halkbank was innocent, and Trump reported the problem would be fixed once prosecutors were replaced.

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