State-owned Turkish bank Halkbank has been charged with fraud and money laundering in an alleged scheme to evade US sanctions on Iran. These charges were announced less than a day after President Trump issued US sanctions against Turkey. These sanction evasion charges may continue to put pressure on Turkey’s struggling economy.
Halkbank is accused of using money service businesses and shell companies to transfer $20bn in oil revenues to Iran. This money should have been restricted by the US’s sanctions against the Islamic Republic. The US attornery for the Southern District of New York, Geoffrey Berman, stated that high-ranking government officials in Turkey supported and protected the bank’s conduct. Berman also claims that these officials received millions of dollars in bribes. One year ago, Halkbank’s deputy general manager was found guilty on similar charges and sentenced to about 2 and a half years in jail.
The United States government is seeking the proceeds from the alleged scheme as a fine. FBI assistant director-in-charge William Sweeny Jr. had a ominous warning. He stated that “. . .for far too long the bank and its leaders willfully deceived the United States to shield their actions from scrutiny. That deception ends today.” Some are worried that this long list of charges, including sanction evasion, money laundering, and conspiracy to defraud the US government, will hurt ties between Turkey and the United States.
For more information on the charges, view the Department of Justice’s press release here.
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