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15 Oct, 2019 22:41

US indicts Turkish bank over $20 BILLION in Iran oil money – but this may be linked to Trump impeachment

US indicts Turkish bank over $20 BILLION in Iran oil money – but this may be linked to Trump impeachment

Charges against the Turkish Halkbank announced by federal prosecutors has critics of US President Donald Trump hopeful of his impeachment, due to reports he tried to intervene on behalf of one of its convicted executives.

Halkbank – officially Turkiye Halk Bankasi AS – was charged on Tuesday with six counts of conspiracy, fraud and money laundering in the Southern District of New York, for allegedly helping Iran circumvent US sanctions on oil exports between 2012 and 2016 to the tune of $20 billion. The Turkish government is the bank’s majority shareholder, and US Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman claimed that its “audacious conduct was supported and protected by high-ranking Turkish government officials.”

The charges come amid the Turkish invasion of northern Syria, for which Trump has threatened to impose economic and financial penalties on Ankara. However, the president’s critics at home hope this might turn into a scandal that helps them bring him down.

Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani reportedly represented Reza Zarrab, one of the Halkbank executives who was charged with seven counts in relation to Iranian money-laundering and pleaded guilty in October 2017.

Citing three anonymous sources, Bloomberg reported earlier this month that Trump tried to pressure then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to persuade the DOJ to drop the case against Zarrab, but Tillerson refused. This was supposedly done on behalf of Giuliani, who went on to become Trump’s personal attorney in April 2018 and represent him in the ‘Russiagate’ investigation that eventually turned up empty. 

The alleged Trump-Giuliani-Zarrab connection has fueled speculation among the prominent #Resistance figures that they might have found something to actually pin on the president this time.

Former Obama White House officials have also chimed in, suggesting that Trump was seeking to help Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, rather than just his friend and future lawyer.

Last month, House Democrats opened what they say is an official impeachment probe, revolving around the claims of an anonymous intelligence community whistleblower that Trump used Giuliani to pressure Ukraine for “dirt” on Joe Biden, former vice-president and a candidate for the Democrats’ 2020 presidential nomination. As the inquiry was never authorized by a vote, however, the White House has refused to cooperate with the hearings.

Whatever the fallout of the Halkbank case ends up being in the US, the charges are unlikely to make relations between Washington and Ankara any better. In an interview with Reuters last month, Erdogan said he hoped the US would not go after the bank, adding that it would be a “mistake” and “not a rational behavior.”

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