The United States announced sanctions against Turkish state-owned Halkbank for violating sanctions against Iran and engaging in a multibillion-dollar scheme for skirting said sanctions.
The U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York said "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. 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."
According to the indictment, Halkbank used financial services companies in Iran, the UAE, and other countries as fronts “to violate and 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.”
The scheme helped transfer as much as $20 billion in Iranian oil money into accounts at Halkbank, the prosecutors said in the indictment. Millions of dollars from the proceeds generated by the scheme were used to bribe high-ranking government officials into protecting the scheme from U.S. regulators, the document also said.
The sanctions come at a time of intensified pressure between Washington and Ankara after the latter launched an offensive against the Kurds in Syria barely waiting for the U.S. troops to pull out.
Following the start of the offensive, President Trump announced sanctions against Ankara officials in a bid to stop it, and sent Vice President Mike Pence and national security adviser Robert O'Brien to Anakara to discuss the possibility of a ceasefire with Turkish President Recep Erdogan.
"I am fully prepared to swiftly destroy Turkey's economy if Turkish leaders continue down this dangerous and destructive path," Trump said at the time, which prompted Erdogan to strike back with “We could never declare a ceasefire.”
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.