Halkbank case may be stalled due to coronavirus pandemic

A lawyer for Turkey's state-owned Halkbank asked a federal judge on Tuesday to postpone its trial over a multibillion-dollar scheme to evade U.S. sanctions on Iran for more than a year, citing the difficulties brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Courthouse News reported.

Halkbank’s lawyer Robert Cary requested a proceeding in March 2022, citing the coronavirus pandemic and the “vast majority” of witnesses being overseas. 

U.S. prosecutor Michael Lockard proposed holding the trial in February 2021, and said the prosecutors benefit from having tried and convicted the bank's former manager Hakan Atilla more than two years ago.

“This is not a case where we are starting from scratch,” Courthouse News cited Lockard as saying.

No trial date for Halkbank has been set.

The Halkbank case gained renewed attention in June when John Bolton, a former national security adviser for U.S. President Donald Trump, addressed it in a new memoir.

Bolton, in his book, said that he had concerns about Trump doing favours for the leaders of Turkey and China, with Trump telling his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in 2018 that he would intervene in the Halkbank case, and suggested the charges would be dropped once prosecutors were replaced.

U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman who was prosecuting the case agreed to step down on June 20 after initially refusing to leave his post when he was told that he had been fired by Trump.