Halkbank’s U.S. legal team seeks to withdraw from sanctions-busting case

A U.S. law firm on Friday filed a motion to withdraw as the legal defence for Turkish state-owned Halkbank, in a case linked to American sanctions on Iran.

The move opens the possibility for the firm to testify against Turkey’s second largest lender before a U.S. grand jury.

“Halkbank has consented to the filing of this motion,” wrote the lead attorney of Halkbank’s case, Andrew Hruska of law firm King & Spalding, in a legal declaration posted on Twitter.

Lawyer Robert Cary from another legal firm, Williams & Connolly, filed a notice of appearance to take over as Halkbank’s representation in a March 27 letter.

U.S. prosecutors charged the bank in Oct. 2019 over its alleged role in laundering up to $20 billion on behalf of sanctioned Iranian entities, bank fraud charges, and concealing the nature of these illicit transactions from U.S. officials.

Reza Zarrab, a Turkish-Iranian gold trader, had been arrested three years earlier for masterminding the scheme in March 2016. Zarrab agreed to cooperate with New York prosecutors in exchange for leniency, which led to the indictment and arrest of Halkbank executive Hakan Attila in March 2017 and the indictment of former Turkish Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan.

A reason King & Spalding would withdraw from a case like Halkbank’s was because the U.S. government is seeking to have them testify against their former client, tweeted American attorney Tim Hogan.

It is possible that the firm was served with a grand jury subpoena or is expecting it, Hogan said.