Penalties loom as lawyer for Turkey’s Halkbank delays US court proceedings

A legal saga involving high-ranking officials in both Washington and Ankara continues after lawyers representing Turkey’s state-owned Halkbank refused to recognize criminal charges brought against the institution by the US Department of Justice on Tuesday.

Following an indictment released on Oct. 15, the bank faces six counts of fraud and conspiracy to evade US sanctions on Iran between 2012 and 2016 in what became known as the “gas for gold” scheme. This week, Halkbank lawyer Andrew Hruska of the King & Spalding law firm said the institution would seek dismissal of the case without recognizing the charges, while also requesting the judge recuse himself for having allegedly exhibited bias in prior media interviews.

Halkbank also asked for permission to make a “special appearance” in the Southern District of New York court where the trial is being held to fight the charges without entering a plea. The dismissal request might draw additional fines for contempt of court. Hruska did not respond to requests for comment.

Sources familiar with the case said the legal maneuvers were highly unusual and were likely efforts to delay court proceedings that could trigger heavy sanctions from the Justice Department, along with separate sanctions packages currently being considered in Congress.

“The penalties could be equivalent to the proceeds of the sanctions scheme, so we’re talking tens of billions of dollars,” Nate Schenkkan, director for Special Research at Freedom House, told Al-Monitor.

He added, “Halkbank is thinking, ‘Let’s just keep on kicking the can down the road and see if we can talk this out with the president.’ I have to say I’m skeptical of that [because] once the indictment has been brought, the president has very limited powers to do anything about it.”

Read the full story on Al Monitor.