Federal judge calls out Rudy Giuliani as an 'unusual contact' in Turkish money-laundering case
In a new court order on Thursday, U.S. District Judge Richard Berman called out Rudy Giuliani's role in a Turkish lobbying effort to thwart a money laundering case against one of the country's major state-owned banks.
Halkbank has been charged by U.S. prosecutors of participating in a conspiracy to avoid sanctions on Iran. But the entity has refused to even show up in court to plead guilty or not guilty. Berman's newest order denied its request to have a "special appearance" giuligiulito challenge the court's jurisdiction in the matter.
The ordered noted that the case was related to charges against its Deputy General Manager for International Banking Mehmet Hakan Atilla and banker Reza Zarrab, who was arrested in 2016 and was said to have damaging information about Halkbank.
In a section of the order describing the Turkish government's "unusual contacts" in the case, it explained:
Following the arrests of Zarrab and Atilla in the U.S. and after their respective arraignments, an extraordinary, sustained series of Turkey-initiated state to state meetings, contacts, and involvements began—outside the courtroom—between and among Turkish and U.S. officials, lobbyists and attorneys.
Among those contacts, the judge noted, was Giuliani, who engaged on Zarrab's behalf. A defense attorney for Zarrab said that Giuliani, along with former United States Attorney Michael Mukasey, was involved in the case, but they would not appear to represent the client in court.
The order explained: "The Americans who appear for the most part to have been on the receiving end of these efforts include, among others, President Donald J. Trump; Joe Biden, former Vice President of the United States; Loretta Lynch, former United States Attorney General; Steven Mnuchin, United States Secretary of the Treasury; and Rex W. Tillerson, former United States Secretary of State."
More recently, the objective of the campaign, following the conviction of Mr. Atilla on January 3, 2018, appears to have been to avoid Halkbank being indicted and, relatedly, to avoid Halkbank having to pay a potential fine. This effort appears to have failed prior to the Halkbank Indictment on October 15, 2019.
The judge also said that in this case, Halkbank is "almost certainly" a fugitive from the law for refusing to appear in the case.
Giuliani's involvement in the case has previously been reported, and multiple reports have found that the former mayor may have used his connections to the president to undermine possible criminal charges. Bloomberg reported in October:
President Donald Trump pressed then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to help persuade the Justice Department to drop a criminal case against an Iranian-Turkish gold trader who was a client of Rudy Giuliani, according to three people familiar with the 2017 meeting in the Oval Office.
Tillerson refused, arguing it would constitute interference in an ongoing investigation of the trader, Reza Zarrab, according to the people. They said other participants in the Oval Office were shocked by the request.
Tillerson immediately repeated his objections to then-Chief of Staff John Kelly in a hallway conversation just outside the Oval Office, emphasizing that the request would be illegal.
The episode is particularly suspicious given the questions that have arisen of Giuliani's potential work on behalf of foreign clients in the Ukraine scandal, which is currently driving the push from Trump's impeachment. It also raises further questions about Trump's connections and ties to Turkey, which were implicated in his stunning decision to abandon the United States' Kurdish allies in northern Syria in the wake of a Turkish incursion.
Cody Fenwick is a senior editor at AlterNet. He writes about politics, media and science. Follow him on Twitter @.