Halkbank wins reprieve in US prosecution over Iran sanctions

Bloomberg | Christian Berthelsen: A federal appeals court granted a temporary halt in the U.S. prosecution of Turkish lender Halkbank over sanctions violation charges while it weighs other requests by the bank.

Halkbank had previously sought to pursue a dismissal of the case without entering a plea on the charges. A judge denied the request, and the bank is appealing that ruling. A three-judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals will weigh the request on an expedited basis.

Prosecutors have deemed the bank a fugitive from justice, asking a judge to hold it in contempt and impose fines until it begins answering the charges.

Halkbank, which is owned by the Turkish government, was charged in October with helping Iran access billions of dollars in oil revenue that had been frozen in its accounts under U.S. sanctions. A senior bank executive was previously convicted in the case, and a money launderer pleaded guilty to charges of orchestrating the scheme.

The case has become a persistent thorn in the side of Turkey’s president, Recep Erdogan, who has pressed President Donald Trump to intervene. The charges were brought at the height of tensions between Washington and Ankara over Turkey’s military offensive in Syria. The geopolitical context is complicated by Trump’s campaign to hobble Iran.