Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday described a U.S. indictment against Turkey’s state-run Halkbank as “unlawful” and “ugly.”
“This is just another sign of how emotional these issues have become.
“One would think that this business was over. Now they have taken an unlawful, ugly step by reopening this (case),” Erdogan said in parliament, according to state news agency Anadolu.
The indictment raises tensions between the NATO allies after Washington already imposed some sanctions on Ankara over its incursion in Syria, which the U.S. allowed.
“We will see what decisions they make. We will finalise our own measures based on these,” he added.
On Tuesday, U.S. prosecutors charged Halkbank with participation in a multi-billion-dollar scheme between 2012 and 2016 to evade U.S. sanctions on Iran.
It allegedly involved masking money transfers as gold sales to work around sanctions imposed by Washington on Tehran over its nuclear programme.
“Halkbank’s systemic participation in the illicit movement of billions of dollars’ worth of Iranian oil revenue was designed and executed by senior bank officials,” said U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman.
“High-ranking government officials in Iran and Turkey participated in and protected this scheme,” prosecutors said in the 45-page indictment.
The U.S. indictment “comes in spite of the independent investigation findings demonstrating the bank’s innocence,” Halkbank said on Wednesday.
It rejected involvement “in any secondary U.S. sanctions violations.”
Halkbank said it will take legal action against what it called “an unwarranted case under international law.” It said the indictment was an attempt to “discredit” and “damage” the bank.