Halkbank – officially Turkiye Halk Bankasi AS – was charged on Tuesday with six counts of conspiracy, fraud and money laundering in the Southern District of New York, for allegedly helping Iran circumvent US sanctions on oil exports between 2012 and 2016 to the tune of $20 billion. The Turkish government is the bank’s majority shareholder, and US Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman claimed that its “audacious conduct was supported and protected by high-ranking Turkish government officials.”
The charges come amid the Turkish invasion of northern Syria, for which Trump has threatened to impose economic and financial penalties on Ankara. However, the president’s critics at home hope this might turn into a scandal that helps them bring him down.
BREAKING: SDNY charges Turkish state-run bank Halkbank in sanctions violations in connection with the record-breaking money-laundering scheme to Iran executed by gold trader Reza Zarrab.
Zarrab was the client whose release Giuliani pushed for between Trump and Erdogan. pic.twitter.com/pr4AA2dZyb
— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) October 15, 2019
Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani reportedly represented Reza Zarrab, one of the Halkbank executives who was charged with seven counts in relation to Iranian money-laundering and pleaded guilty in October 2017.
Citing three anonymous sources, Bloomberg reported earlier this month that Trump tried to pressure then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to persuade the DOJ to drop the case against Zarrab, but Tillerson refused. This was supposedly done on behalf of Giuliani, who went on to become Trump’s personal attorney in April 2018 and represent him in the ‘Russiagate’ investigation that eventually turned up empty.
NYT and Washpost reporting add important new detail in the Reza Zarrab story: that Giuliani pitched Tillerson on a prisoner trade in early 2017. 1/5 https://t.co/ZQ3ICkGrKs
— Nicholas Wadhams (@nwadhams) October 12, 2019
The alleged Trump-Giuliani-Zarrab connection has fueled speculation among the prominent #Resistance figures that they might have found something to actually pin on the president this time.
If Giuliani represented Zarrab *and* Trump and tried to convince Trump to help Zarrab, that is obviously unethical given the clear conflict of interest. https://t.co/O0PeSwiEoC
— Renato Mariotti (@renato_mariotti) October 13, 2019
I have a lot of questions about this — Trump trying to interfere with this case in SDNY against Turkey’s Reza Zarrab https://t.co/jWYG3Z6PpM
— Preet Bharara (@PreetBharara) October 9, 2019
Former Obama White House officials have also chimed in, suggesting that Trump was seeking to help Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, rather than just his friend and future lawyer.
At the end of the Obama admin, Erdogan pushed us hard on the Zarrab case. Erdogan feared revelations about corruption would come out in court. We told him it wasn’t appropriate for the WH to interfere in such cases.
Trump wasn’t just helping Rudy here. https://t.co/nrBi7913mK
— Colin Kahl (@ColinKahl) October 9, 2019
Last month, House Democrats opened what they say is an official impeachment probe, revolving around the claims of an anonymous intelligence community whistleblower that Trump used Giuliani to pressure Ukraine for “dirt” on Joe Biden, former vice-president and a candidate for the Democrats’ 2020 presidential nomination. As the inquiry was never authorized by a vote, however, the White House has refused to cooperate with the hearings.
Whatever the fallout of the Halkbank case ends up being in the US, the charges are unlikely to make relations between Washington and Ankara any better. In an interview with Reuters last month, Erdogan said he hoped the US would not go after the bank, adding that it would be a “mistake” and “not a rational behavior.”
(SOURCE: RUSSIA TODAY)