On Tuesday, federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York announced charges against a Turkish bank for fraud, money laundering, and a scheme to circumvent U.S. sanctions on Iran.
“As alleged in today’s indictment, Halkbank’s systemic participation in the illicit movement of billions of dollars’ worth of Iranian oil revenue was designed and executed by senior bank officials,” said U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman. “The bank’s audacious conduct was supported and protected by high-ranking Turkish government officials, some of whom received millions of dollars in bribes to promote and protect the scheme. Halkbank will now have to answer for its conduct in an American court.”
These charges come as new scrutiny falls on Reza Zarrab, the Turkish-Iranian gold trader who was convicted of bribery as part of the Halkbank scheme. Rudy Giuliani previously acted as counsel for Zarrab and, at his urging in 2017, President Donald Trump tried to get then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to relay to the Justice Department not to pursue the case. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has also leaned on both Trump and former President Barack Obama to drop the Halkbank investigation.
Halkbank also made news recently after Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told a prank caller pretending to represent the Turkish government that Trump was willing to help them with the investigation.