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HomeHeadlineHalkbank Case: A Tale of Manipulation, Misinformation, and Political Gain in Turkey

Halkbank Case: A Tale of Manipulation, Misinformation, and Political Gain in Turkey

I was actually writing about another corruption file I was working on, but I had to change my plan after a ‘breaking news’ dropped by the agencies early in the morning. Because they hit a double whammy with a few sentences of ‘news.’ And not just any…

Let me explain the issue simply; in an announcement made by Halkbank to the Public Disclosure Platform, it was declared that the ‘Owens case’ opened in the USA on March 27, 2020, was ultimately dropped.

The bank announced the news with the statement, “We wish that the decision will be beneficial for our bank, our investors, and our customers.” The ‘good news’ was on the headlines in all pro-government media. When I saw Odatv’s headline “And Halkbank Acquitted,” I said, “They’re fooling the naive again.”

The main case has not yet concluded

Those who don’t know the details thought that the Halkbank case, which has been ongoing and causing a crisis between Turkey and the USA, ended, and Turkey avoided paying compensation. However, there are multiple cases related to Halkbank, and the case that has been discussed in Turkey for years, which could result in billion-dollar fines, has not yet concluded.

So, there’s no situation that should lead to the headline “Halkbank acquitted!” In other words, the news is not true.

That’s actually what they wanted. Because after this news, Halkbank’s shares hit the ceiling. Some people made a lot of money. Politically, it was claimed that the government was right, and that Turkey was trapped through Halkbank, etc. Especially on social media, ‘trolls’ worked overtime to highlight ‘Turkey’s righteousness.’

But that’s not the real story.

The danger has not passed yet Because the dropped case is just one of the lawsuits filed against Halkbank.

There are other compensation lawsuits of this type. Indeed, they are ongoing. However, the case that has been discussed in Turkey for years is not these.

As is known, the legal process that started after Reza Zarrab was arrested in the US in the spring of 2016 led to a major crisis between Turkey and the USA. Reza Zarrab became a confessor and collaborated with the prosecutor, and Halkbank’s former Deputy General Manager Hakan Atilla was tried and sentenced to 32 months in prison.

Lawyers defending Hakan Atilla, whose fees were paid by the Turkish government, confirmed the December 17 operation at the first hearing and verified the bribes between Reza Zarrab and politicians.

A separate case was opened regarding Halkbank.

The trial process that began in 2019 brought unprecedented events in US history. Because the Erdoğan regime mobilized all its resources to obstruct this case.

Erdoğan tried to intervene in the case by activating circles influential on the then US President Trump. The White House even attempted to close the case. This issue became a subject in the US media and books of former White House bureaucrats.

However, since the US judiciary is independent, it did not succumb to political pressures and the trial continued. The Erdoğan regime then ‘bought time’ by taking the matter to the US Supreme Court.

According to Turkey, Halkbank, being a public bank, has immunity and cannot be tried in another country. Although the New York court set a trial calendar several times, Turkey managed to take the case to the US Supreme Court, delaying the legal process that began in 2019 to this day.

For the first time in its history, the US Supreme Court took such an application on its agenda. Last year in April, the US Supreme Court did not accept Halkbank’s claim that it was exempt from prosecution under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), but ruled that the bank’s jurisprudential objection be reconsidered in a lower court.

Thus, the trial returned to the Southern District Court of New York. This court had previously made two decisions against the bank. Halkbank repeated the argument that had been previously rejected in court.

The New York Second Circuit Court of Appeals was supposed to hold an appeal hearing on December 11, but at the request of the prosecution, this hearing was postponed to February 28, 2024. So, the case that Turkey has been trying to close for years, spending millions of dollars and hiring the most expensive lawyers in the USA, has not yet concluded.

The course of the trial will become clear after February 28. My impression is that the appeals court will once again reject Halkbank and announce a trial calendar.

Let’s go back to the beginning.

In Turkey, to put it bluntly, a bandit gang that robs everything in sight is in power. As former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu puts it, ‘they see everything they look at as dollar green.’

During the Iran embargo, Turkey could have made billions of dollars through Halkbank, taking advantage of the privilege granted to it. Turkish farmers, industrialists, and producers could have seized a historic opportunity.

Because Turkey was granted privileges due to the Iran embargo, allowed to buy oil and sell goods in return.

I’ve been explaining the details for years.

If Erdoğan and his cabinet of corrupt ministers had not laid down in front of Reza Zarrab and had used this opportunity for the benefit of the Turkish people, Turkey could have made billions of dollars. However, they preferred their own pockets and laundered $20 billion through Halkbank.

Erdoğan and his team first made a huge profit by taking millions of dollars in bribes. Later, they were caught red-handed but sold this issue as a ‘coup attempt against the government’ and gained political profit.

When Reza Zarrab escaped to the USA and cooperated with the prosecutor, another opportunity for profit opened. The Erdoğan regime transferred millions of dollars to lobbying firms and influential people. Their goal was to rescue Zarrab and close the Halkbank case.

Of course, AKP members made serious money from all these dealings.

Now, they are making a new profit under the same file. They made a double whammy with the news of “Halkbank case dropped!” After the news, Halkbank shares soared. Small investors who did not know the details of the case were swindled.

Secondly, they gained political profit before the upcoming election. Because all media is in their hands. There is no platform to write the truth and the reality of the event. Places like Odatv, which are ostensibly opposition but actually in favor of the Palace, positioned themselves next to the Palace.

Thus, everyone will think, “Erdoğan was right again, the Halkbank case was a trap, Reis struggled and won, albeit late.” Even if a decision related to the main case comes out tomorrow and is against the government, how many people will hear it, understand the essence?

In the end, Erdoğan and his team are practically showing the answer to the question, ‘how many types of corruption can come out of one file?’

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Adem Yavuz Arslan
Adem Yavuz Arslan
Adem Yavuz Aslan is a leading Turkish investigative journalist in exile based in Washington, D.C.

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