If Turkish president Erdogan needed one more reason to go ballistic in his daily comparisons of western leaders to Hilter and the Nazis, he got it this morning when a top executive at Halkbank, one of Turkey’s largest state-owned banks was arrested at JFK airport on charges of conspiring with an Iranian-Turkish financier who is awaiting trial for using his network of companies to circumvent Iranian sanctions.
As first reported by Bloomberg, Mehmet Hakan Atilla, deputy CEO at Turkiye Halk Bankasi, was taken into U.S. custody at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York on Tuesday. He was detained on suspicion of conspiring to execute transactions on behalf of Iran. The arrest was made in connection with the pending prosecution of Reza Zarrab. The U.S. claims it has evidence that Zarrab paid millions of dollars in bribes to Turkish government officials and top executives at Halkbank, as it is commonly known, which allegedly helped Zarrab process the transactions.
Zarrab was a key figure in a 2013 scandal, in which Turkish prosecutors accused him of bribing the country’s cabinet ministers in a gold-trading operation worth at least $12 billion. We documented that particular fascinating incident in June 2014 in 'Turkey's "200 Tons Of Secret Gold" Trade With Iran: The Biggest, Most Bizarre Money Laundering Scheme Ever?
To be sure, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who personally benefited from the money, or rather gold, laundering scheme called the investigation a coup attempt, and all charges against Zarrab and members of his administration were eventually dropped.
Zarrab, owner and operator of Royal Holdings A.S., is accused of using his multibillion-dollar network of companies in Turkey and the United Arab Emirates to induce U.S. banks to launder hundreds of millions of dollars in transactions that violated international sanctions against Iran. He was arrested in Miami in March 2016 after arriving in the U.S. for a family trip to Disney World and remains in detention.
And now we look forward to Erdogan's furious response as one of his top bankers will be spending the foreseeable future in the questionable comfort of Rykers island.