October 16, 2019

On October 15, the Department of Justice (DOJ) charged Türkiye Halk Bankası AŞ (Halkbank) in a six-count indictment with fraud, money laundering, and sanctions offenses related to the bank’s participation in a multibillion-dollar scheme to evade U.S. sanctions on Iran. The charges are summarized in a DOJ press release. From approximately 2012 to 2016, Halkbank’s senior officials used money service businesses and front companies in various countries “to evade and avoid prohibitions against Iran’s access to the U.S. financial system, restrictions on the use of proceeds of Iranian oil and gas sales, and restrictions on the supply of gold to the Government of Iran and to Iranian entities and persons.” Halkbank, whose majority shareholder is the government of Turkey, orchestrated the conspiracy and bribed Turkish officials to ensure its protection and continuation over the years. The Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers commented: “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.” The United States also previously charged nine individuals in the scheme, with one defendant pleading guilty, another convicted following trial, and seven others remaining fugitives. The case against Halkbank will be handled in Manhattan federal court.

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