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Halkbank says Turkish government working on issue of executive’s US detention

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Shares in Turkish state lender Halkbank plunged as much as 16 percent on Wednesday after US prosecutors charged one of its senior executives with participating in a multi-year scheme to violate US sanctions against Iran.

Halkbank confirmed Mehmet Hakan Atilla, its deputy general manager, had been detained in the United States and said it and the Turkish government were working on the issue.

Atilla is accused of conspiring with wealthy Turkish gold trader Reza Zarrab to conduct hundreds of millions of dollars of illegal transactions through US banks on behalf of Iran’s government and other entities in that country.

“Our bank and relevant state bodies are conducting the necessary work on the subject, and information will be shared with the public when it is obtained,” Halkbank said in a statement.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said the case would be discussed with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson when he visits Ankara this week. Çavuşoğlu, speaking to broadcaster TRT Haber, also called for a transparent process regarding Atilla’s arrest.

The arrest of the 47-year-old banker escalates a case that has added to the tensions between the United States and Turkey. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has previously said he believed US authorities had “ulterior motives” in prosecuting Zarrab, who was arrested in March 2016 in Miami.

Zarrab has denied the charges in his case. It was unclear whether Atilla had hired a lawyer or requested bail.

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