Turkish bank linked to Giuliani client charged with fraud, money laundering in New York

Federal prosecutors have charged a Turkish bank with ties to a former client of President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive takeaways from the Democratic debate As Buttigieg rises, Biden is still the target Leading Democrats largely pull punches at debate MORE’s personal attorney Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiBiden: Impeachment hearings show 'Trump doesn't want me to be the nominee' Sondland brings impeachment inquiry to White House doorstep FBI sought interview with whistleblower at heart of impeachment probe MORE in connection with an alleged scheme to evade sanctions on Iran, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York.

The six-count indictment alleges that Turkiye Halk Bankasi AS (Halkbank) was part of a conspiracy to give Tehran access to billions of dollars in defiance of sanctions that it concealed from U.S. regulators.

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“As alleged in today’s indictment, Halkbank’s systemic participation in the illicit movement of billions of dollars’ worth of Iranian oil revenue was designed and executed by senior bank officials,” U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman said in a statement.

“The bank’s audacious conduct was supported and protected by high-ranking Turkish government officials, some of whom received millions of dollars in bribes to promote and protect the scheme. Halkbank will now have to answer for its conduct in an American court,” Berman added.

Reports last week said that in 2017, Trump pressured then-Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonTillerson: Using American aid for 'some kind of personal gain [is] wrong' Nikki Haley fires the first shot in the GOP's post-Trump war State Dept. watchdog: Official's firing was case of political retaliation MORE to help convince the Justice Department to drop a criminal case against Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab, who was himself charged in a sanctions-evasion scheme and represented by Giuliani.

Zarrab eventually pleaded guilty and testified against Mehmet Hakan Atilla, who headed international banking at Halkbank, also claiming Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was aware of the laundering effort.

While Erdoğan has denied Zarrab’s allegations, the statement from the U.S. attorney's office says unnamed “high-ranking government officials in Iran and Turkey participated in and protected this scheme,” with some of them accepting bribes worth tens of millions of dollars to promote the conspiracy, protect conspirators and conceal the scheme from regulatory scrutiny.