Federal prosecutors in New York charged a Turkish bank Tuesday with money laundering and fraud in an alleged multi-billion dollar scheme to evade U.S. sanctions on Iran.
The six-count indictment charges Halkbank with moving billions of dollars in Iranian oil and gas proceeds back to the sanctioned country, disguising some of the transactions as involving food, medicine and other humanitarian aid.
“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,” Assistant Attorney General John Demers said.
The charges come days after Bloomberg reported that President Donald Trump pressed then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to persuade the Justice Department in 2017 to drop a related sanctions case against a Turkish-Iranian gold trader represented by Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani
The trader, Reza Zarrab, ultimately pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with federal authorities. Zarrab was one of nine people charged in related cases, including the former Turkish economic minister.
Mehmet Atilla, Halkbank’s former deputy general manager, also was convicted last year in a New York federal court on five of six criminal counts in one of the related cases.