Turkish bank fails to halt US prosecution for aiding Iran

Federal judge rejects request by Turkish Halkbank to put on hold a federal prosecution accusing it of helping Iran evade sanctions.

Arutz Sheva Staff,

Halkbank branch in central Istanbul
Halkbank branch in central Istanbul

A federal judge in Manhattan on Thursday rejected a request by Turkey’s state-owned Halkbank to put on hold a federal prosecution accusing it of helping Iran evade US economic sanctions, Reuters reported.

US District Judge Richard Berman said Halkbank would not face irreparable harm if the case proceeded, and that limiting its economic and reputational damage “may best be assured by Halkbank’s speedy response to the criminal charges.”

Berman also said the public had a strong interest in a “prompt adjudication” of Halkbank’s alleged role in a conspiracy to undermine the sanctions, including through the alleged transfer of $20 billion of otherwise restricted Iranian funds.

Lawyers for Halkbank did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A spokesman for US Attorney Geoffrey Berman in Manhattan declined to comment.

In October, the US criminally charged Halkbank with helping to evade sanctions against Iran, saying senior officials at Halkbank had designed and carried out a scheme to move billions of dollars of Iranian oil revenue illegally.

Halkbank has resisted entering a plea to the federal fraud and money laundering charges.

The bank had asked Berman to stay the case until the federal appeals court in Manhattan decided whether it could make a “special appearance” to challenge the jurisdiction of US courts without first entering a plea, according to Reuters.

Berman ruled on December 5 that a plea should come first.

The charges threatened to complicate U.S.-Turkish relations, and were announced one day after US President Donald Trump sanctioned Turkey following its launch of a military offense against Kurdish-led militia in northeastern Syria.