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US judge overseeing criminal case against Turkey’s Halkbank will not recuse himself: report

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Turkish state lender Halkbank has lost a bid to have the US judge overseeing a criminal case accusing it of helping Iran evade American sanctions recuse himself, Reuters reported.

US District Judge Richard Berman in Manhattan said in an order on Monday that Halkbank’s recusal motion had no substantive merit, rejecting claims by the bank that he was not impartial.

Halkbank co-defendant Reza Zarrab unsuccessfully made a similar bid to recuse Berman four years ago, the order noted.

Zarrab, a wealthy Turkish-Iranian gold trader, was convicted in 2018 for helping Iran evade sanctions. Berman also oversaw that case.

“Haklbank’s recusal motion is a belated rerun of the Zarrab recusal motion, supplemented by 1,014 additional pages of exhibits and two purported expert declarations,” the judge wrote.

US prosecutors have accused Halkbank and bank executives of using money services and front companies in Iran, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates to evade sanctions.

They said improper transactions included letting revenue from oil and gas sales be spent on gold, and facilitating sham food and medicine purchases.

Halkbank pleaded not guilty on March 31 to bank fraud, money laundering and four conspiracy charges.

A trial date has been set for March 1, 2021.

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