US charges Turkey’s Halkbank with violating Iran sanctions

US prosecutors on Tuesday filed criminal charges against Turkey’s state-run Halkbank for allegedly taking part in a multibillion-dollar scheme to evade sanctions on Iran.

The indictment is the latest development in a years-long criminal case that began with the arrest of Reza Zarrab, a Turkish-Iranian gold trader accused of playing a key role in the sanctions evasion scheme.

Zarrab pleaded guilty and testified at the trial of a Halkbank deputy general manager. He told authorities that Iran was getting around US sanctions through a complicated scheme involving gold transactions with the help of the bank and the Turkish government.

Tuesday’s announcement means that prosecutors believe they have gathered enough evidence to back that notion.

“High-ranking government officials in Iran and Turkey participated in and protected this scheme,” which was set up to move some $20 billion (€18.1 billion) of Iranian oil revenue illegally, prosecutors of the Southern District of New York said in a 45-page indictment.

Prosecutors allege that Turkish government officials received millions of dollars in bribes in return.

“This is one of the most serious Iran sanctions violations we have seen,” the statement read.