Turkey’s Halkbank seeks dismissal of Iran-sanctions case

Bloomberg – A major Turkish state-run bank is seeking to dismiss a U.S. indictment against it for allegedly helping Iran evade sanctions on billions of dollars frozen in foreign accounts.

Halkbank has refused to respond to the charges in court since the case was filed last month. On Monday, a lawyer for the bank filed papers in federal court in Manhattan seeking special permission to seek the case’s dismissal. He also said the bank would request the recusal of U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman, who presided over a previous trial on the matter and has been assigned the new case as well.

But the bank also said it continues to refuse to accept a U.S. legal summons or recognize the U.S. court’s authority over it. In his filing, Andrew Hruska said the U.S. has no jurisdiction over Halkbank because the bank has no American physical presence or operations.

“The bank’s conduct alleged in the indictment has no connection to the U.S. sufficient to create jurisdiction,” Hruska said.

Though the case against Halkbank was in the works for years, it languished amid a full-court press by Turkey to get the Trump administration to drop the charges. The indictment was unsealed, along with a package of sanctions against the country, only after Turkey invaded Syria last month.

That has led Turkey and Halkbank to claim that the charges are politically motivated and without merit.

“Because this case has been widely publicized and brought in a highly-charged atmosphere between the U.S. and Turkey, it is essential to address reasonable questions about the court’s impartiality,” Halkbank said in the filing.

A decision on the recusal would be up to Judge Berman, who has asked prosecutors from the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan to weigh in. A hearing on the case is scheduled for Tuesday.

Prosecutors said in a filing they oppose the request of Halkbank’s lawyer to make a special appearance in court and urged the judge to impose contempt sanctions if the bank’s legal team doesn’t show up for Tuesday’s hearing.

The case is 15-cr-867, U.S. v. Halkbank, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).