US prosecutor drops appeal to extend Turkish banker’s sentence

A thaw in relations has resulted in Turkey and the US discussing the return of Hakan Atilla to Turkey, where he can serve the remainder of his sentence. Above, a branch of Halkbank in Istanbul. (AFP)
Updated 07 December 2018
0

US prosecutor drops appeal to extend Turkish banker’s sentence

  • A US court sentenced Hakan Atilla, an executive from Halkbank, to 32 months in prison in May for helping Iran evade US sanctions
  • Tensions between the NATO allies accelerated a lira sell-off this year, although the currency’s performance has improved in tandem with diplomatic ties

ANKARA: New York prosecutors have withdrawn an appeal to extend the sentence of a former executive at Turkey’s state-owned lender Halkbank, said Turkey’s state-owned Anadolu news agency.

Halkbank shares rose nearly 4 percent after the report as market participants saw the move as further indication of an improvement in diplomatic ties between Washington and Ankara.

A US court sentenced Hakan Atilla, an executive from Halkbank, to 32 months in prison in May for helping Iran evade US sanctions in a case that has strained already tense ties between NATO allies Ankara and Washington.

Halkbank, which denies any wrongdoing, has since faced potential US fines in relation to the case, which Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has condemned as a political attack against his government.

The Turkish news agency Anadolu, without citing sources, said the New York prosecutor’s office had originally filed the appeal, saying the sentence was too short. It said the court had asked prosecutors to present details of the appeal by Dec. 6, but that the appeal had later been withdrawn.

No further details were immediately available and the New York prosecutor’s office was not available for comment, having yet to open on Friday morning.

Halkbank’s dollar-denominated bonds jumped 0.74 cents to 84.70 cents after the report.

Last month, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said after talks with US officials in Washington that the two sides had discussed returning Atilla to Turkey where he can serve the rest of his sentence.

Erdogan also said last month that he had discussed the case of Halkbank with US President Donald Trump, saying the talks were on a “positive path.” He said, without elaborating, that Trump had told him “he would instruct the relevant ministers immediately” regarding the case.

Atilla is expected to be released on July 25, Anadolu said. He had already served 14 months when he was sentenced.

“It is good news that the US prosecutor’s office is not appealing to have the sentence prolonged or extended — it’s a sign of improving relations between Turkey and the US,” said SEB’s Per Hammarlund.

Tensions between the NATO allies accelerated a lira sell-off this year, although the currency’s performance has improved in tandem with diplomatic ties.

Relations between Ankara and Washington began to improve after US pastor Andrew Brunson, who was on trial over terror-related charges in Turkey, was released in October.

They remain divided on a host of other issues, including US policy in Syria and Turkey’s request for the United States to extradite Fethullah Gulen, a cleric Ankara blames for organizing the 2016 abortive putsch. Gulen denies involvement.


China flags up UAE as Silk Road mega-hub with $300m port deal

Updated 48 min 9 sec ago
0

China flags up UAE as Silk Road mega-hub with $300m port deal

  • Cosco has invested an initial $300 million in CSP Abu Dhabi Terminal
  • The expansion plan foresees a capacity of 9.1 million TEU by 2023

ABU DHABI: China, the world largest trading nation, has thrown its weight behind Abu Dhabi as the Middle East hub for its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in an alliance with the UAE capital’s Khalifa Port.

Cosco, the Shanghai-based, state-owned group that ranks among the biggest shipping companies in the world, has invested an initial $300 million in the CSP Abu Dhabi Terminal, the first step in an investment program that could help make it one of the biggest ports in the Arabian Gulf over the next five years. Additional investment is pledged.

The expansion plan foresees a capacity of 9.1 million TEU (20-foot equivalent units, the standard measurement in the global container industry) by 2023. Jebel Ali, just 50 km away in Dubai, is currently by far the biggest port in the region with capacity of 22.1 million TEU.

China’s BRI is a state-sponsored strategy to enhance land and sea trading infrastructure in Asia, the Middle East and Africa via multibillion-dollar investments in trading hubs across the eastern hemisphere.

The Cosco-Abu Dhabi deal was unveiled at a ceremony at the port attended by prominent UAE and Chinese leaders.

Sheikh Hamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, chief of the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Court, said: “China and the UAE share a strong and long-standing bond across a variety of ties, including economic, cultural, and trade and investment, and a common vision of a stable and prosperous future for our peoples and the world.”

He Jianzhong, China’s deputy minister of transport, said: “(The) terminal is the latest major achievement from China and the UAE’s joint efforts to implement ‘the 21st-century Maritime Silk Road’ in the ports and shipping industry.”

The deepwater, semi-automated container terminal includes the largest container freight station in the Middle East, covering 275,000 square meters.

“The state-of-the-art facility offers facilities for full and partial bonded container shipments, the full range of container packing services, short-term warehousing for deconsolidated cargo, as well as easy connectivity with container terminals in Khalifa Port,” a joint statement said.

The terminal has a design capacity of 2.5 million TEU and will begin with a handling capacity of 1.5 million TEU, with 1,200 meters of quayside. The water depth of the terminal is 16.5 meters, allowing it to accommodate mega-vessels typically carrying in excess of 20,000 TEU.

Ning Jizhe, deputy director of China’s National Development and Reform Commission, a state planning organization, said: “This inauguration ceremony is not only a milestone in the cooperation of China’s ‘Belt and Road Initiative,’ but also a good start for China and the UAE’s pragmatic cooperation in other key areas.”

Trade ties have been growing between China and the UAE since a visit by Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan to Beijing three years ago. Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the UAE last summer.

The deal with Cosco is aimed at attracting foreign investment into the UAE via the Khalifa Industrial Zone of Abu Dhabi (KIZAD), the huge logistics and manufacturing zone that borders the port.

China’s BRI is one of the most ambitious infrastructure projects in history, but has been criticized by some observers for leaving the partners of Chinese companies in debt.