Shares in Turkish state lender Halkbank plunged as much as 16 percent on Wednesday after US prosecutors charged one of its senior executives with participating in a multi-year scheme to violate US sanctions against Iran.
Halkbank confirmed Mehmet Hakan Atilla, its deputy general manager, had been detained in the United States and said it and the Turkish government were working on the issue.
Atilla is accused of conspiring with wealthy Turkish gold trader Reza Zarrab to conduct hundreds of millions of dollars of illegal transactions through US banks on behalf of Iran’s government and other entities in that country.
“Our bank and relevant state bodies are conducting the necessary work on the subject, and information will be shared with the public when it is obtained,” Halkbank said in a statement.
ÇAVUŞOĞLU ACCUSES GÜLEN MOVEMENT OF DETENTION OF HALBANK EXECUTIVE
Meanwhile, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has held the faith-based Gülen movement responsible for the detention of Halkbank Deputy General Manager Mehmet Hakan Atilla in the US on charges of violating US sanctions against Iran.
Speaking to state-run broadcaster TRT Haber on Wednesday, Çavuşoğlu said Atilla was detained based on an indictment prepared by former US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara, who he said had links to the Gülen movement.
“It looks it [the detention order] was prepared beforehand. They took him [Atilla] immediately to court. We are closely following the case,” said the minister.
Çavuşoğlu has also said the case would be discussed with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson when he visits Ankara this week. Çavuşoğlu, speaking to broadcaster TRT Haber, also called for a transparent process regarding Atilla’s arrest.
Zarrab was the prime suspect in a major corruption investigation that became public in December 2013 in which then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s inner circle was implicated. Zarrab was arrested by US authorities in Miami in March 2016 on charges of helping Iran process millions of dollars of transactions when it was under US sanctions for its nuclear program.
Erdoğan and pro-government circles have claimed on many occasions that Bharara, who indicted Zarrab, has links to the Gülen movement.
Responding to these allegations, Bharara said in a statement last September that he had just learned Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen’s name from Google and has never been to Turkey. Gülen, who lives in the US in self-imposed exile, is the figure who inspired the Gülen movement with his teachings.
The prosecutor said until the day he was claimed to be a Gülen sympathizer, he had never even heard Gülen’s name and searched for it on Google.
Bharara also said although Turkish President Erdoğan accused him of mingling with Gülen sympathizers in Turkey, he has never been to Turkey.
Bharara was removed from office earlier this month by US President Donald Trump after refusing to submit a letter of resignation as part of an ouster of the remaining US attorneys who were holdovers from the administration of former US President Barack Obama.
The arrest of the 47-year-old banker escalates a case that has added to the tensions between the United States and Turkey. Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has previously said he believed US authorities had “ulterior motives” in prosecuting Zarrab, who was arrested in March 2016 in Miami.
Zarrab has denied the charges in his case. It was unclear whether Atilla had hired a lawyer or requested bail. (SCF with turkishminute.com) March 29, 2017