Erdogan calls US case against banker ‘political coup attempt’

Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Updated 09 January 2018
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Erdogan calls US case against banker ‘political coup attempt’

ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday condemned a US sanctions-busting case against a Turkish bank executive as a “political coup attempt” and a joint effort by the CIA and FBI to undermine Ankara.
A US jury last week convicted the executive of Turkey’s majority state-owned Halkbank of evading Iran sanctions, capping a trial that has strained relations between the NATO allies.
Erdogan, speaking to members of his ruling AK Party in the Parliament, said the CIA, the FBI and the network of the US-based cleric Turkey blames for a 2016 coup were together using the case to undermine Ankara.
“Those who could not succeed in the (military) coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, (2016) are now searching for a different attempt in our country,” he said.
Bloomberg quoted Deputy Prime Minister Recep Akdag as saying the evidence used in the court proceedings “was fabricated” by supporters of Fethullah Gulen.
According to the report in Bloomberg, there is concern that Atilla’s conviction will prompt US authorities to penalize Turkey or its banks — especially since the jury found that the scheme was devised by executives at the state-run bank, formally known as Turkiye Halk Bankasi AS.
“The US has given no indication of that so far. Bekir Bozdag, the Turkish government’s spokesman, has fueled concerns by repeatedly saying that the case is an attempt to cripple Turkey’s economy through the imposition of sanctions,” the report added.
Halkbank is Turkey’s biggest listed state bank, with assets of 280 billion liras ($74 billion), and its success is viewed by the government as a national cause. The bank’s traditional client base consists mainly of small businesses, and with its options for offshore financing hampered by the trial.
The US case against Atilla was based on the testimony of the gold trader Zarrab, who cooperated with US prosecutors and pleaded guilty to charges of leading a scheme to evade US sanctions against Iran.
In his testimony, Zarrab implicated top Turkish politicians.
The bank has denied any wrongdoing and said its transactions were in line with local and international regulations.
The court decision is unlikely to damage Erdogan or his government at home, said Wolfango Piccoli of Teneo Intelligence, a London-based consultancy.
“Domestically, I don’t believe it will make any difference at all...” Piccoli said. “I think it is much more important in terms of the bilateral relations with the United States. This is a relationship that has been difficult for some time.”
Less clear was the potential fall-out for the banking sector, with some analysts seeing the possibility that one or more Turkish lenders could be hit by fines over the case.
“The whole thing is really about what the consequences will be for the relationship between Turkey and the US,” said Paul Fage of TD Securities in London.
Turkey has said it will take any necessary measures to protect its banks from the potential impact of the case.


Rocket hits site of foreign oil firms in Iraq’s Basra

Updated 9 min 12 sec ago
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Rocket hits site of foreign oil firms in Iraq’s Basra

  • The rocket hit Burjeisa residential and operations headquarters west of Basra
  • Police said the rocket was a short-range Katyusha missile

BASRA, Iraq: A rocket struck the site of the residential and operations headquarters of several global major oil companies, including US giant ExxonMobil, near Iraq’s southern city of Basra early on Wednesday, wounding three people, Iraq’s military said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility. It came after two separate attacks in as many days on bases housing US military personnel in Iraq, as tension rose between the United States and Iran.
The rocket hit the Burjesia site west of the city, according to police and a statement released by the military. Police earlier said two Iraqi workers were wounded.
The United States evacuated hundreds of diplomatic staff from its Baghdad embassy last month, citing unspecified threats from Iran against US interests in neighboring Iraq, where Tehran supports some Shiite militias.
Wednesday’s incident came just as Exxon staff who were also evacuated after the diplomats’ departure had begun to return to Basra.
A security source said Exxon was evacuating 21 foreign staff immediately by plane to Dubai.
Oil officials said operations including exports from southern Iraq were not affected by the incident.
Other companies operating at the site include Royal Dutch Shell PLC and Italy’s Eni SpA, the oil officials said.
The rocket was a short-range Katyusha missile, the military said. Police said it landed 100 meters from the part of the site used as a residence and operations center by Exxon.
Burjesia is near the Zubair oilfield operated by Eni.
Washington has ramped up sanctions pressure on Iran in recent months and says it has sent additional forces to the region over tension with the Islamic Republic.
It blames Tehran for attacks on tankers in the Gulf of Oman last week. Tehran denies it was involved.
Both sides say they do not want war, but analysts warn such incidents could escalate violence in the region.