EghtesadOnline: A federal appeals court granted a temporary halt in the US 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, Bloomberg reported.
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, according to Financial Tribune.
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 US 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 Turkish 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.
Earlier in January, prosecutors in Manhattan federal court had said Halkbank should be fined an initial $1 million a day for contempt of court, and which could double each week to counter the bank’s “obstinacy” in refusing to defend itself in court, news wires reported.
Such a penalty “is an appropriate and necessary sanction to apply a sufficient coercive pressure to cause the defendant to cease its contempt and appear in this matter,” prosecutors claimed.
US prosecutors announced fraud and money laundering charges in the case on Oct. 15, claiming Halkbank and its executives used money servicers and front companies in Iran, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates to evade sanctions.