US charges Turkey’s Halkbank over Iran sanctions evasion scheme

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US federal prosecutors in New York charged Turkey’s Halkbank with fraud, money laundering, and sanctions offenses related to the bank’s alleged participation in a multi-billion-dollar scheme to evade US sanctions on Iran.

US prosecutors on Tuesday said that high-ranking Turkish government officials received millions of dollars in bribes to promote and protect Halkbank’s scheme to evade US sanctions.

The prosecutors accused Halkbank and its officers of using businesses in Iran, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates to bypass sanctions on oil, gas, and gold supplies to Iran, allege prosecutors.

“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 U.S. regulators about the scheme,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers said in a statement on Tuesday.

“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,” he added.

The Turkish lira was slightly weaker against the dollar early on Wednesday on the news.

At 0442 GMT, the lira stood at 5.9270 against the US currency, compared with a close on Tuesday of 5.9170, according to Reuters.

“As we allege today, Halkbank, a Turkish financial institution whose majority shareholder is the government of Turkey, willfully engaged in deceptive activities designed to evade US sanctions against Iran,” said FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr.

“Halkbank illegally facilitated the illicit transfer of billions of dollars to benefit Iran, and for far too long the bank and its leaders willfully deceived the United States to shield their actions from scrutiny,” he added.

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