(CN) — Excoriating the Turkish government’s intense campaign to delay and dismiss the record-breaking money-laundering case, a federal judge found Thursday that the state-run Halkbank is “almost certainly” a fugitive.
The 27-page ruling from U.S. District Judge Richard Berman emphatically rejects Halkbank’s request for a special appearance that would have let it attack the case without appearing in court.
“If Halkbank wishes the district court to decide its jurisdictional motion, this international bank holds the key to unlock its dilemma: travel to New York and answer the charges or have its legal counsel do so,” Berman wrote.
Halkbank's firm King & Spalding briefly registered as an agent for the Turkish foreign ministry in 2017.
In statement, the firm's associate Ana Buling said attorneys will carefully review the ruling with Halkbank to assess their legal options.
"We disagree with the district court’s decision," Buling wrote.
Turkey’s effort to scuttle a case that has embarrassed Turkish strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan and U.S. President Donald Trump has been three years in the making, dating back to the arrests gold trader Reza Zarrab in 2016 and Halkbank’s former manager Hakan Atilla a year later.
“Following the arrests of Zarrab and Atilla in the U.S. and after their respective arraignments, an extraordinary, sustained series of Turkey-initiated state to state meetings, contacts, and involvements began — outside the courtroom — between and among Turkish and U.S. officials, lobbyists and attorneys,” Berman wrote.
“The objective of the campaign was, initially, to obtain the release and repatriation of Mr. Zarrab — even though he was in the middle of a U.S. Federal criminal proceeding and heading for trial.”
Zarrab later went on to implicate Erdogan ordering trades through Turkish state-run banks that violated U.S. sanctions against Iran on an unprecedented scale.
Erdogan has been dogged by those allegations ever since the revelation of a 2013 corruption scandal that tied him, his family, and high-ranking members of his ruling Justice and Development party with receiving massive bribes to participate in this shadow economy.
In a footnote of the ruling, Berman rattled off the top-level Turkish officials engaged in this blitz to prevent the controversy from reigniting in U.S. courts.
“This remarkable campaign involved, among others, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan; Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag; former Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Şimşek; Berat Albayrak, President Erdogan’s son-in-law and Turkish Minister of Finance; and Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlut Cavusoglu,” the footnotes states.
Turkey’s efforts failed to sway the Obama administration, despite meetings between its officials and then-Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch. In the Trump administration, however, Erdogan has made inroads.