Duvar English

U.S. District Judge Richard Berman set a Feb. 10 hearing date for Turkey’s Halkbank and will decide whether the bank will face sanctions for refusing to answer an indictment charging it with a money-laundering scheme.

Judge Berman said in an order on Dec. 9 that Halbank and its counsel have failed to heed two summonses issued since October after federal prosecutors in Manhattan charged the bank with taking party in a multibillion-dollar scheme to evade U.S. sanctions on Iran.

“February 10, 2020, at 10:00 a.m., at which Halkbank shall show cause why it should not be held in contempt in the First summons and the Second summons and contempts sanctions imposed,’’ said a court document shared by Courthouse News reporter Adam Klasfeld in Twitter on Dec. 9.

Halkbank had sought to make a “special and limited appearance” before the court in order to have the case dropped without having to formally participate in it, but Berman denied the effort last week.  

Berman said Halkbank and its counsel failed to appear to an Oct. 22 hearing, and that in so doing it “willfully and knowingly disobeyed the Court’s order.” A second hearing held on Nov. 5 saw Halkbank’s counsel, listed as King & Spalding, appear but with the sole intent of seeking permission for the “special and limited appearance.”

Berman further ordered federal prosecutors to prepare by Jan. 3 possible penalties should Halkbank continue to decline to participate.

Two people were previously convicted in the case which first became public in 2016 with the arrest in Miami of Reza Zarrab, a Turkish-Iranian gold trader accused of playing a central role in the sanctions evasion scheme. Atilla, a Halkbank deputy general manager, was arrested in New York the following year.

Zarrab pleaded guilty and testified for U.S. prosecutors at Atilla’s trial. Atilla was sentenced to 32 months in prison following his conviction in early 2018. He was released and returned to Turkey earlier this year.