The Department of Justice on Tuesday charged Halkbank, a Turkish state-owned bank, with “fraud, money laundering, and sanctions offenses related to the bank’s participation in a multibillion-dollar scheme to evade U.S. sanctions on Iran,” according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York. “Halkbank... allegedly conspired to undermine the United States Iran sanctions regime by illegally giving Iran access to billions of dollars’ worth of funds, all while deceiving U.S. regulators about the scheme,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers. “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.”
“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,” Demers said. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has reportedly been working to get the impending charges against Halkbank dropped since the Obama administration. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who advises President Trump on national security issues, reportedly told a Russian prankster he believed was the Turkish defense minister in a call over the summer that Trump wanted to “be helpful” in the case.