Ziraat Bank, Turkey’s largest bank by assets, has stopped offering services to Venezuela’s central bank in the wake of tougher US sanctions that raise the stakes for companies that do business with the Caribbean nation, Bloomberg reported.
The Ankara-based state bank confirmed the closing of its account without providing further details. Venezuela’s central bank was relying on Ziraat to pay contractors, move money and import products in Turkish lira. A Venezuela central bank press official did not respond to requests for comment.
US sanctions, which were strengthened this month, threaten institutions that do business with Venezuela with exile from the global financial system. Still, Ziraat’s decision came as a surprise to staff inside Venezuela’s central bank, as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has repeatedly expressed his support for President Nicolás Maduro and visited the country as recently as December.
The correspondent banking system is used by countries, companies and consumers to send trillions of dollars in payments around the world. In some instances, correspondent banks enhance due diligence when dealing with countries under financial sanctions or flagged as money-laundering risks.
Fearing continued reprisals from sanctions, Venezuela’s government has been considering the possibility of switching to a Russian-operated international payments messaging system as an alternative to SWIFT.
While firms including most big North American and European air carriers have ended service to Venezuela, Turkish Airlines (THY) flies to Caracas several times a week.