22 Jan 2020
Turkey’s Halkbank should pay millions of dollars in fines for its continued failure to respond to U.S. sanctions-evasions charges, federal prosecutors in New York said.
In a court filing Tuesday, the government asked a federal judge to impose a daily $1 million fine that would double each week the bank refuses to appear in the case.
Prosecutors charged the bank in October with aiding a yearslong scheme to help Iran evade U.S. economic sanctions and access $20 billion in frozen oil revenue. Since then, the bank has refused to accept service of the indictment or answer the case, leading prosecutors to deem it a fugitive from justice.
The U.S. pursuit of Halkbank, which is owned by the Turkish government, has been a sore point in relations between the two countries. Manhattan federal prosecutors previously won the conviction of a senior Halkbank executive in a case Turkish President Recep Erdogan likened to an “international coup attempt.”
“Halkbank has consistently sought to avoid responsibility for its role in a massive sanctions-evasion and money-laundering scheme that gave the Government of Iran access to billions of dollars’ worth of restricted oil proceeds,” the U.S. said in Tuesday’s filing.
The U.S. argued that Halkbank improperly ignored an initial summons, “intentionally frustrated” efforts to serve the summons and indictment, attacked the charges in the press and failed to show up for a required court appearance.
Andrew Hruska, a U.S. lawyer for Halkbank, didn’t immediately return a phone message seeking comment on the sanctions request.
A judge in December denied Halkbank’s request that it be allowed to make a “special appearance” to argue for the charges’ dismissal without submitting itself to the court’s jurisdiction. U.S. District Judge Richard Berman denied the request, leaving Halkbank with a choice between answering the charges and defending against them or not participating in the case in any way.
By Bob Van Voris, Bloomberg, 21 January 2020
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