“A verdict in favor of Halkbank will have a negative effect on fight against Iran”
Prosecutors in the US said a decision by the Supreme Court to accept the appeal by Turkey’s public bank Halkbank to avoid criminal charges of helping Iran evade sanctions will disrupt the fight against Iran on a global scale, VOA Turkish reported.
The US Supreme Court January 17 will hear Halkbank’s appeal that rejected charges of money laundering, bank fraud and conspiracy that allegedly helped Iran evade economic sanctions in a case that has strained American relations with Turkey.
A lower court had rejected the bank's contention that it was immune from U.S. prosecution under a 1976 law called the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which limits the jurisdiction of American courts over lawsuits against foreign countries, because the business is majority-owned by Turkey's government.
The Prosecutor's Office said in two documents against the appeal that a possible favorable decision by the Supreme Court could significantly affect the ability of the US to impose economic sanctions on Iran. In the documents, the prosecution included the views of Mark B. Feldman and Chimene I. Keitner, international legal experts affiliated with UANI (Union Against Iranian Nuclear), a non-profit non-governmental organization in the USA. The agency whose members include former US ambassadors, governors, congressmen and leading Middle East policy experts was founded to pressure Iran to renounce its illegal nuclear weapons program, support for terrorism and human rights abuses.
Halkbank was accused of illegally laundering approximately twenty billion dollars worth of Iranian funds, at least one billion of which was through the American financial system, by concealing its illegal practices from the US Ministry of Finance.
Halkbank had also suggested that any verdict against the bank could ignite "international outrage and a diplomatic nightmare in the international community," an argument which was rejected by the prosecution.
The charges against Halkbank stemmed from an investigation that first became public with the 2016 arrest of Reza Zarrab, a Turkish-Iranian gold trader who U.S. prosecutors said had close ties with President Erdogan. Zarrab pleaded guilty and testified at trial against Mehmet Hakan Atilla, a Halkbank executive who was arrested in 2017, subsequently convicted of helping evade U.S. sanctions and sentenced to 32 months in prison.
Federal prosecutors in New York in 2019 brought charges against Halkbank, accusing it of participating in a scheme to launder about $20 billion of Iranian oil and natural gas proceeds in violation of U.S. sanctions against Iran.