NEW YORK (AP) – A Turkish bank faces criminal charges for evading sanctions against Iran by processing billions of dollars in Iranian oil revenues, an appeals court ruled on Friday.
The 2nd United States Court of Appeals upheld the decision of United States District Judge Richard M. Berman.
An indictment issued in 2019 said the bank had illegally moved around $ 20 billion in Iranian oil and gas revenue. He also said that the state bank sometimes disguised the movement of money as purchases of food and medicine so that they could benefit from a “humanitarian exception” to sanctions.
A Halkbank lawyer declined to comment on the decision.
In a ruling drafted by Circuit Judge Jose A. Cabranes, a three-judge panel concluded that claims that Halkbank was protected from prosecution by the immunity granted to foreign sovereigns through the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act are overcome by an exception for crimes committed in the course of a commercial activity.
Although the bank was only indicted two years ago, allegations against it surfaced in 2015 when a wealthy Turkish-Iranian gold trader was arrested for sanctions as he arrived in the United States. to take his family to Disney World in Florida.
The trader – Reza Zarrab – ultimately said he paid more than $ 50 million in bribes to a former Turkish finance minister to help an anti-sanction program, according to prosecutors, was headed by the deputy managing director of Halkbank for international banks, Mehmet Hakan Atilla.
Prosecutors maintained that Atilla used his position to help build and protect the program that has allowed billions of dollars in profits from Iranian oil sales to flow through global financial markets since 2011.
Atilla was convicted of five of the six criminal charges against him, including conspiracy to defraud the United States, bank fraud and conspiracy to violate sanctions against Iran.
Zarrab hired Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, to try to negotiate a deal between the Turkish president and the US government to resolve the charges. The 2017 talks failed to reach a deal.
Zarrab eventually cooperated and testified against Atilla during his trial. Atilla was sentenced to two years and eight months in prison.
After Atilla’s release from an American prison, he returned to Turkey.
The earlier lawsuits against Zarrab and Atilla and the ongoing case against Halkbank have further strained ties between the two countries.
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