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Halkbank update:  Attorney General Barr  implicated in efforts to stop the trial

Barr personally attempted to head off prosecution of Halkbank in a suspected multibillion-dollar scheme to evade sanctions against Iran, CNN reported, citing “a person familiar with the discussions

Halkbank update:  Attorney General Barr  implicated in efforts to stop the trial

The involvement of Turkish state lender Halkbank in cases concerning violations of Iran sanctions dates back to infamous  Reza Zarrab investigations, who is a Turkish gold trader accused of smuggling more than $12 bn to Iran in circumvention of UN and USA sanctions. His confessions led to  the arrest and subsequent conviction of high level Halkbank employee Mr. Hakan Atilla, who served a brief prison sentence in the USA.  He has been rewarded for his loyalty to Republic of Turkey by being appointed to the Chairmanship of Istanbul Securities Exchange.

In both cases Halkbank, as well as other unnamed  Turkish financial intermediaries were named but not charged as conduits for illegal funds transfers. Conversations with American journalists revealed to PA Intelligence that OFAC had already sent a report to President Trump finding Halkbank a co-conspirator and asking for substantive fines to be levied. Trump is yet to decide on the request.

 

New charges were brought in October in a Manhattan Federal court against Halkbank, mirroring those against former Halkbank executive Mehmet Hakan Atilla, who was arrested in New York in 2017 and sentenced to 32 months in prison after a trial in the same court.

 

Prosecutors said Halkbank undertook transactions on Iran’s behalf that would have exposed the bank to sanctions, including allowing revenue from oil and gas sales to be spent on gold, and facilitating sham purchases of food and medicine.

 

Halkbank refused to acknowledge the jurisdiction of the court, failing to send attorneys to the hearings.

 

At this point, it appears President Erdogan   intervened on behalf of Halkbank with Trump, asking him to “make the case disappear”.  Here is the rest of the story as broken by Huffington Post:

 

Attorney General William Barr attempted to block U.S. prosecution of a Turkish bank last year after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan asked Donald Trump for help in the matter, according to a new CNN report that supports earlier accounts.

 

Barr personally attempted to head off prosecution of Halkbank in a suspected multibillion-dollar scheme to evade sanctions against Iran, CNN reported, citing “a person familiar with the discussions.” He reportedly tried to steer a settlement that would have allowed the bank to dodge an indictment shortly after Erdogan pressed Trump for help last spring.

 

Barr ultimately failed to stop an indictment, however. U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman of the Southern District of New York insisted on criminal prosecution, CNN reported.

 

Barr faces increasing criticism for appearing to do Trump’s bidding to manipulate Justice Department cases to punish the president’s enemies or help his allies. In this situation, Barr’s reported efforts seemed aimed at attempting to satisfy the request of an authoritarian foreign leader.

 

The CNN account appears to ratify a Bloomberg report from last year. After Erdogan pressed Trump for help with the Halkbank case in April, the president told the Turkish leader that Barr and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin would handle it, sources told Bloomberg in an article in October.

 

Mnuchin’s office has confirmed to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) that Treasury officials became involved in the case at Trump’s direction, according to a letter Wyden wrote last week to Barr. Officials also revealed that Trump, senior White House adviser Jared Kushner and Mnuchin met with Turkey’s finance minister and Erdogan’s son-in-law in the Oval Office in April, though they did not reveal details of the meeting, according to Wyden.

 

Barr directed Halkbank officials how to work out a deal, Bloomberg reported. But the bank failed to do so and was ultimately charged in October with fraud, money laundering, and sanctions offenses by Berman’s office.

 

The charges followed Turkey’s invasion of Syria and political blowback for Trump. The indictment was filed a day after Trump imposed sanctions on Turkey for the Syria incursion.

 

Former national security adviser John Bolton expressed concerns last year that Trump was doing personal favors for the “autocratic” leaders of Turkey and China, according to draft of a manuscript for his upcoming book obtained by The New York Times.

 

Bolton wrote that he complained to Barr about his fears. Barr referred to the Halkbank case and told Bolton that Trump may have been exaggerating his influence in what was supposed to be an independent investigation by the Justice Department, according to the manuscript.

 

Barr’s office could not immediately be reached for comment on the CNN report.

 

The attorney general has come under intensifying pressure after the Justice Department last week overturned a sentencing recommendation by its own prosecutors of seven to nine years for Roger Stone, Trump’s longtime pal. Stone was convicted of seven felonies, including lying to investigators and witness tampering.

 

Barr has since ordered a review of the case against Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who initially pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about his communication with the Russian ambassador before Trump was sworn into office. Flynn withdrew his guilty plea last month.

 

 

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