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October 18, 2019 9:45 am

US Indicts Turkish Bank for Evading Iran Sanctions After Attempt to Make Deal Fails

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Halkbank branch in Skanderbeg Square, Tirana, Albania. Photo: Wikimedia Commons. – The United States has indicted a Turkish bank for allegedly evading US sanctions on Iran after reportedly failing to reach a deal with the Trump administration to avoid charges.

“Halkbank, a Turkish state-owned bank, allegedly conspired to undermine the United States Iran sanctions regime by illegally giving Iran access to billions of dollars’ worth of funds, all while deceiving US regulators about the scheme,” said John Demers, assistant attorney general for national security. “This is one of the most serious Iran sanctions violations we have seen, and no business should profit from evading our laws or risking our national security.”

The US attorney for the Southern District of New York, Geoffrey Berman, said “the bank’s audacious conduct was supported and protected by high-ranking Turkish government officials, some of whom received millions of dollars in bribes to promote and protect the scheme.”

The illicit funds came from sales from Iran’s national oil company in which the bank administered transactions designed to appear to be purchases of medicine and food by Iranian customers, in accordance with the so-called “humanitarian exception” that’s related to the sanctions.

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Turkey has denied the charges, which, along with evading sanctions, include fraud and money-laundering.

After repeated attempts, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan persuaded US President Donald Trump to ask US Attorney General William Barr and US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to strike a deal with the bank to avoid charges, which ended being unsuccessful, reported Bloomberg News on Wednesday, adding that the White House was not notified in advance of the indictment.

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