Ex-Trump lobbyist drops Turkey’s Halkbank after U.S. federal court charges

The main lobbying firm for Halkbank has decided to stop representing Turkey’s majority state-owned bank following charges against it, Al Monitor reported.

The decision follows a move by a Manhattan federal court on Tuesday indicting Halkbank with fraud, money laundering and complicity in a scheme to evade U.S. sanctions on Iran.

“Since the matter is now in the judicial channels, we felt it was the right moment to bring our representation to a close,” James Rubin, a partner at Ballard Partners who represented Halkbank along with former Donald Trump Florida lobbyist Brian Ballard told Al Monitor.

Halkbank’s former executive Mehmet Hakan Atilla’s trial in 2018 illustrated the bank’s senior management’s participation in “the brazen scheme to circumvent our nation’s Iran sanctions regime,” the U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement

Halkbank paid Ballard Partners over $ 2.6 million since 2017, Al Monitor wrote. A U.S. Department of Justice report showed that the firm received from Turkey two separate payments of $750,000 and $765,611 in 2018.

The Turkish bank had also hired McGinn and Company in 2017, and has paid them $ 690,000 since, Al Monitor said citing congressional lobbying records.

The firm King & Spalding also briefly registered as a lobbyist for Turkey in 2017, but never disclosed any political activity or payments from Turkey, it added.

The case against Halkbank was announced to the public following U.S. sanctions against Turkey for its military incursion into northeast Syria targeting U.S.-allied Kurdish forces in the region, and is connected to the 2017 case against Iranian-Turkish businessman Reza Zarrab, who pleaded guilty to charges of sanctions evasion with help from Turkish officials.