US official says investigation into Turkey’s Halkbank still underway

An unnamed US official who met with a group of Turkish journalists said that an investigation into Turkey’s state-owned Halkbank conducted by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is still ongoing, the Hürriyet newspaper reported on Wednesday.

When asked whether a legal case would be launched against Halkbank, the official said it would be a decision that “concerns the judiciary.”

“If the investigation comes to a conclusion, the Treasury Department will advise in favor of a sanction. But the investigation is still in progress,” the official underlined.

The official also clarified that a case against former Halkbank deputy manager Mehmet Hakan Atilla did not pertain to Halkbank but to whether or not Atilla had violated US law.

The official emphasized that US President Donald Trump has no authority to influence cases in the courts.

In response to a question about whether President Trump can intervene in the investigation being carried out by the Treasury Department, however, the official said: “The issue with OFAC is a matter to be handled by the Department of the Treasury, which is part of the administration. And the president is the head of the administration.”

On Tuesday the pro-government Yenişafak newspaper had reported a revelation by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that during a meeting with the US president in Paris, Trump expressed his impatience about the investigation, saying he thought the issue had been resolved and wondered why things were taking so long.

Erdoğan had also claimed last week that talks with the US on Halkbank were “on a positive path.”

On Nov. 5, Turkey’s Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak had suggested on a TV program that his US counterpart, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, had promised to follow the process closely.

In May, Turkish banker Atilla was sentenced by a US Federal judge to 32 months in prison after being convicted by a Manhattan jury in January of conspiring to violate US sanctions.

During the sentencing, the judge had said Atilla was “substantially less culpable” than other members of the sanctions evasion scheme, calling him a “cog in the wheel.”

The T24 news website reported that Halkbank shares gained 2 percent in value following the remarks of the US official, which were taken as an indication that President Trump might intervene in the investigation of the Department of the Treasury. (turkishminute.com)

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