Turkish banks appeals to US to drop laundering charges

Turkey's Halkbank appeals to US to drop 'Iran money laundering' charges
2 min read
13 April, 2021
Embattled Halkbank has appealed to a US court to dismiss charges related to the laundering of Iranian oil proceeds, claiming the bank is immune from prosecution.
Halkbank have claimed that the bank is immune from prosecution [Getty]

Turkish bank Halkbank has requested that a US appeals court throw out a case against it for allegedly helping Iran to evade US sanctions, claiming that it is immune from prosecution, according to reports by Reuters.

A lawyer for Halkbak, Simon Latcovich, claimed in the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan that the bank's actions do not fall within the jurisdiction of the US government, since Halkbank was "synonymous" with Turkey and covered by immunity. 

Halkbank is facing charges of bank fraud, money laundering and conspiracy, related to the use of money services and front companies in Iran, Turkey and the UAE, with the  intention of evading US sanctions. 

They have denied all the charges. 

US prosecutors have told the court they believe Halkbank has helped Iran by converting revenues from oil into gold and then back into cash again. They are also accused of recording faked food shipments to cover-up the transfer of oil proceeds. 

Halkbank is also accused of helping Iran to covertly transfer $20 billion of restricted funds, and they have further alleged that at least $1 billion was laundered in the US. 

Responding to the charges, Latcovich argued that under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, Halkbank was immune from prosecution.

This argument was rebutted by US prosecutor Sidhardha Kamaraju, who said that the act only related to civil cases, and called on the appeals court to dismiss a "dramatic extension" to sovereign immunity. 

Read more: Why Turkey wants Biden to salvage the Iran nuclear deal

On 1 October, US District Judge Richard Berman ruled that the prosecution could go ahead, promoting the appeal by the bank.

Turkey and the US have butted heads over Ankara's purchase of a Russian missile defence system, relations with the Syrian Kurds, the crisis in the Eastern Mediterranean, and recent crackdowns in Turkey.

No date has been set for the appeal's ruling. 

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