Turkey state-owned bank must face US court, judge rules

Turkey state-owned bank must face US court over Iran sanctions violations, judge rules
2 min read
02 October, 2020
Halkbank is accused of working with Iran to evade US-imposed sanctions.
Halkbank is accused of laundering $1 billion through the US financial system [Getty]
Halkbank must respond to a US indictment accusing the Turkish state-owned lender of helping Iran to dodge sanctions, a judge ruled on Thursday.

US District Judge Richard Berman dismissed Halkbank's claim that it was shielded from prosecution in the US due to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, Reuters reported.

An exception in the law for commercial activity would "would clearly apply and support the Halkbank prosecution", the judge ruled.

The Justice Department accuses Halkbank of laundering more than $1 billion through the US financial system.

The Turkish state-owned bank allegedly used front companies in Iran, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey to evade sanctions on the Islamic republic. 

US prosecutors also allege Halkbank helped Iran to transfer some $20 billion in restricted funds.

Halkbank has attempted to see Judge Berman removed from the case due to alleged bias. The Manhattan judge oversaw related cases including the conviction of a former Halkbank executive and a guilty plea by the Iranian-Turkish gold trader who testified against him.

Berman denies accusations of bias.

The Halkbank case gained renewed attention following the recent release of former national security advisor John Bolton's memoir.

In the book, Bolton wrote that President Donald Trump promised his Turkish counterpart that the case would be "fixed" once the prosecutors were replaced.

Trump has faced scrutiny for his warm relationship with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The Halkbank trial is scheduled to begin in March next year.

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