Spotlight: Turkey seeks Trump's help to drop Halkbank case in U.S.

Source: Xinhua| 2018-11-15 17:17:49|Editor: huaxia
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ANKARA, Nov. 14 (Xinhua) -- Turkey seeks to drop investigation on its state-owned Halkbank by the United States justice bodies for the alleged evasion of Iran sanctions, a new litmus test on recovery of ties between the two NATO allies.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday he had discussed Halkbank case with his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump in a meeting at the weekend and the latter promised to solve the issue.

The Turkish president demanded the suspension of moving the Halkbank case, an investigation carried on by the U.S. Treasury in Washington, to a court in New York, local media quoted Erdogan as saying.

Ankara also expects either no fine or a very low one on Halkbank for alleged evasion of Iran sanctions between 2012 and 2015.

Turkey also demands the bank's former Deputy General Manager, Hakan Atilla, to be sent back to serve his remaining jail sentence.

The crucial topic was previously discussed between Turkish and U.S. finance and foreign ministers, but the U.S. action to end troubles on Halkbank is still delayed, Erdogan told reporters.

Citing a phone call with Trump one week ago, Erdogan said that Trump pledged to solve the issue.

"After we made a phone call, Trump instructed the U.S. Treasury secretary to call our Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak in 24 hours," said Erdogan.

"They discussed the possible steps on this issue. Afterwards, our Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu had a phone call with (U.S. Secretary of State) Mike Pompeo," he added.

A U.S. court sentenced the deputy general manager of Halkbank to 32 months in jail earlier this year for helping Iran to evade U.S. sanctions, a decision which Turkey dismissed as politically motivated.

The U.S. Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), which enforces U.S. economic sanctions, is likely to impose a heavy fine on Halkbank.

There is a second investigation that has been carried out by the prosecutors at the U.S. Court of Southern District of New York, which will be a "real trouble," according to Hurriyet Daily News Columnist Cansu Camlibel.

"Rumors say they are ready to release their indictment on Halkbank, which would yield a new court case," she said, recalling that this New York court is where the U.S. president's personal lawyer Michael Cohen pled guilty for criminal charges.

Therefore, any administrative decision by Trump will hardly convince the court to drop the case, according to Camlibel.

The bilateral ties of the U.S. and Turkey are in recovery process after a dispute over the detention and trial on terrorism charges of a U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson.

Brunson's release on October paved way for an ad hoc meeting between Erdogan and Trump at the weekend in Paris during a dinner.

Local media reported that Turkey has not released Brunson until October, because Ankara urged Washington to spare any other investigation on Halkbank and return of its deputy manager to Turkey in return for release of Brunson, yet the negotiations failed in summer.

Now, Erdogan expects a gesture from Trump to close other files against Halkbank.

Elaborating on the investigation file against Halkbank that is reportedly submitted to New York court, an U.S. official said the U.S. justice will decide if they will file a court case against the bank.

"There are speculations about a possible court case against Halkbank, but the independent U.S. judiciary" will decide whether to open a court case in the U.S. against Halkbank, Anadolu Agency quoted a anonymously senior U.S. official on Wednesday as saying.

The official also said another ongoing investigation against Halkbank by the U.S. Treasury has not finalized yet and noted these are two separate cases.

Asked if Trump can intervene into the court cases filed by prosecutors, the official said that Trump cannot influence those cases.

In the U.S. system, the administration has no say over the federal court's actions, the official added.

Asked if Trump can influence the investigation carried out by the OFAC, the official said that OFAC is under the Treasury which is part of the administration and the president is at the helm of the administration. Enditem