Turkish Bank Charged with Evading US Sanctions on Iran

US indicts Turkish bank over $20 BILLION in Iran oil money – but this may be linked to Trump impeachment

USA prosecutors on Tuesday filed criminal charges against Turkey's state-run Halkbank for allegedly taking part in a multibillion-dollar scheme to evade sanctions on Iran.

The case comes at an extremely sensitive time between Washington and Ankara, with the USA slapping sanctions on Turkey on Monday over its military offensive against Kurdish fighters in north-eastern Syria.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said senior bank officials at the state-owned bank helped to move billions of dollars of Iranian oil revenue illegally.

Turkiye Halk Bankasi AS, better known as Halkbank, used money-service businesses and front companies in Iran, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and elsewhere to help Iran evade US sanctions from 2012 to 2016, prosecutors said.

Before Turkish markets opened, authorities banned short selling on seven large Turkish bank stocks including Halkbank.

Halkbank is charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, bank fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud, money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

The main banking index, which has fallen more than 16% this month on fears of US repercussions, was down 2.4% while Turkey's broader stock index was off 1.3%.

Turkey began its cross-border operation just days after Erdogan told Trump in a phone call on October 6 that he would go ahead with a long-planned move against US -allied Kurds in the region, opening a fresh front in Syria's eight-year civil war.

In the latest potential flashpoint, USA military aircraft carried out a "show of force" over the border city of Kobani after Turkish-backed fighters came close to American troops based there, a United States official said.

More news: House passes trio of measures supporting Hong Kong protesters

The alleged scheme, which ran between 2012 and 2016, allowed Iran to spend proceeds from sales of its oil and gas on worldwide markets - in violation of US sanctions - using a complex web of front companies.

In January of past year, one of Halkbank's former executives, Mehmet Hakan Atilla, was convicted by a federal jury of conspiring to conduct secret transactions on behalf of Iran and Iran-related entities that were barred by us sanctions. He returned to Turkey in July after serving out his sentence.

Zarrab pleaded guilty and testified for USA prosecutors.

The move is also likely to intensify tensions between the two country as USA members of Congress push for more sanctions against Turkey.

It said the stocks covered were: Akbank AKBNK.IS , Garanti Bank GARAN.IS , Halkbank, Is Bank ISCTR.IS , TSKB TSKB.IS , VAKIFBANK VAKBN.IS and Yapi Kredi Bank YKBNK.IS .

Halkbank said it will take legal action against what it called "an unwarranted case under global law".

The timing of the charges could be significant as the Trump administration tries to press Turkey to limit its military incursions in Syria, a move Trump himself allowed by declaring USA troops would be withdrawn.

Turkey's lira has declined some 10 percent against the dollar this year, due largely to worries over strained relations between Ankara and Washington. After the Halkbank indictment, the lira was up 0.3 percent at 5.9015 against the dollar.

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