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Turkey Halkbank Not Immune 2d Cir Decided Then Denies Rehearing Now Stay Sought

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon, Thread Video
Honduras - The Source - The Root - Podcast

SDNY COURTHOUSE, Dec 21 – Turkey's Halkbank has officially given up its strategy of refusing to official appear in the US criminal case against it, and on February 25, 2020 appeared and agreed to be indicted. Inner City Press live tweeted it here and below.

 On April 12, 2021 with the case stayed pending appeal, a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit heard the arguments. Inner City Press live tweeted it, here: [& fast podcast here]

On October 22, 2021, the Second Circuit ruled that Halkbank is NOT immune, and the criminal prosecution will proceed: "
This case presents two questions. First, whether a denial of a motion to dismiss a criminal indictment based on the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (“FSIA”) is immediately appealable under the collateral order doctrine. Second, whether FSIA confers immunity on foreign sovereigns from criminal prosecutions. We answer the first question in the affirmative. As to the second, we hold that even if we were to assume that FSIA confers immunity in the criminal context, the offense conduct with which Defendant-Appellant Turkiye Halk Bankasi A.S. is charged would fall under the commercial activity exception to FSIA. Accordingly, we DENY the Government’s motion to dismiss this appeal, and we AFFIRM the Decision and Order of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Richard M. Berman, Judge)." Full order on Inner City Press' DocumentCloud here.

  On December 15, Halkbank's application for rehearing or hearing "en banc" was denied. Inner City Press asked: So it will proceed - or, will an appeal will be filed to the Supreme Court?

The latter. On December 21, Halkbank filed more than 30 pages with the Second Circuit, seeking a stay pending appealing to Supreme Court. But if the Second Circuit denied en banc review, can they agree it is such a close question as to justify a stay? "Defendant-appellant requests that this Court  stay the issuance of the mandate in this appeal  pursuant to Fed. R. App. P. 41 (d), pending the  filing and disposition of its forthcoming petition  for a writ of certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court." Full filing on Patreon here.

Halkbank was indicted for Iran sanctions violations and money laundering on October 15 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. On October 21, Turkey named convicted former Halkbank executive Hakan Atilla as the new managing director of Borsa Istanbul.

  On December 26 SDNY Judge Richard M. Berman issued an order "respectfully denying" Halkbank's attempt to stay the proceedings before him.

 But as released at 7:47 am on February 3, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals issued an administrative stay pending expedited referral to and review by a three-judge panel.

  Now on February 21, this Second Circuit three judge panel has denied Halkbank's requests: "Present:  Amalya L. Kearse, Richard J. Sullivan, Joseph F. Bianco, Circuit Judges.                                                        Petitioner seeks a writ of mandamus and moves for a stay of the district court’s criminal proceeding pending decision on the mandamus petition.  Upon due consideration, it is hereby ORDERED that the petition is DENIED because Petitioner has not demonstrated that it lacks an adequate, alternative means of obtaining relief, that its right to the writ is clear and indisputable, or that granting the writ is appropriate under the circumstances.  See Cheney v. U.S. Dist. Ct. for D.C., 542 U.S. 367, 380–81 (2004); see also United States v. McLaughlin, No. 19-308, 2019 WL 7602324 (2d Cir. Dec. 30, 2019) (reviewing de novo, on appeal from final judgment, district court’s determination that it had personal jurisdiction over criminal defendant)," etc.

 Back on December 19, the US Attorney's Office wrote to Judge Berman: "The Government respectfully submits this letter in response to a motion by Turkiye Halk Bankasi, A.S. (“Halkbank” or the “defendant”) to stay all proceedings in this matter (the “Motion” or “Mot.”). Halkbank asks for a stay because it filed a petition for a writ of mandamus in the Court of Appeals on December 17, 2019, seeking an order directing this Court to allow Halkbank to enter a special appearance to challenge personal jurisdiction and to seek recusal of the presiding District Judge. The stay request is at the very least premature, and in any event unnecessary to prevent irreparable harm, and the Government opposes a stay. The Government does, however, ask that the briefing schedule in connection with the show-cause hearing currently scheduled for February 10, 2020 be adjourned as described below to allow additional time for the Circuit’s response to the petition.    the Government does request a modest adjournment of the briefing schedule in connection with the February 10 hearing. Though the Circuit could deny the petition without further briefing, the Circuit may also order the Government to respond to the petition. Id. Because Halkbank did not file its petition until the week before the holidays, the Circuit may not issue its response to the petition before the Government’s brief is due on January 3, 2020. Accordingly, we ask that the briefing schedule be adjourned in order to provide additional time for the Circuit’s response. The Government requests that the schedule be adjourned as follows: the Government’s brief and related filings to be filed by January 17, 2020; Halkbank’s opposition (if any) due by January 31, 2020; and the Government’s reply due by February 5, 2020. In the event of changed circumstances arising out of the Court of Appeals’ response to the petition, they can be addressed at that time."

  There was a footnote: "Halkbank’s contention about “a negative impact on the bilateral relationship between the United States and the Republic of Turkey” is irrelevant. Whatever impact Halkbank’s own contumacious refusal to comply with the summonses may have on diplomatic relations does not favor providing Halkbank with further opportunities to evade this Court’s jurisdiction. Moreover, the Supreme Court has cautioned against courts “impinging on the discretion of the Legislative and Executive Branches in managing foreign affairs.” Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., 569 U.S. 108, 116 (2013) (quoting Sosa v. Alvarez-Manchain, 542 U.S. 692, 727 (2004)). Purported foreign affairs implications do not alter the application of clear law or warrant treating Halkbank differently from any other party before the Court." How might this apply to the total impunity of the UN? Watch this site.

On December 5 Judge Berman issued a more detailed order denying the application by King & Spalding to make a "special appearance" in this criminal case. Judge Berman last month in his courtroom asked if there is any Second Circuit Court of Appeals precedent. On December 5 he wrote and ruled:

"The Second Circuit recognizes that a defendant may become a fugitive when, “having learned of charges while legally outside the jurisdiction, [the defendant] ‘constructively flees’ by deciding not to return.” See United States v. Catino, 735 F.2d 718, 722 (2d Cir. 1984); see also United States v. Blanco, 861 F.2d 773, 779 (2d Cir. 1988) (“A person can be said to be a fugitive when, while abroad, they learn that they are under indictment and make no effort to return to the United States to face charges.”). It appears to the Court that this is what Halkbank – which is an important institution in Turkey – has done so far in this case. “The primary purpose of the fugitive disentitlement doctrine—promoting mutuality of litigation—is served both when a defendant flees the United States and when he chooses to remain outside the United States.” Miller, 166 F. Supp. 3d at 348; see also Martirossian, 917 F.3d at 890 (where the Court confirmed that “a defendant need not be Case 1:15-cr-00867-RMB Document 581 Filed 12/05/19 Page 26 of 27  27  present in and leave a jurisdiction to become a fugitive; the mere refusal to report for prosecution can constitute constructive flight”). Halkbank has failed to appear following the service of two summonses, with full knowledge and notice of the charges in the Indictment and of the related Atilla and Zarrab cases. See pp. 3–5 above. Halkbank has also been represented by U.S. legal counsel, Mr. Hruska of King & Spaulding LLP, for at least two years in connection with the U.S. criminal investigation of Halkbank’s alleged Iran sanctions evasion. See Gov. Letter, dated Nov. 4, 2019, at 1.

And, this Court has found that “Halkbank has willfully and knowingly disobeyed the Court’s order in the First Summons to appear at the First Conference.” Order, dated Oct. 23, 2019, at 3. The fugitive disentitlement doctrine exists to encourage compliance with the law and to protect against entities that “‘attempt to invoke from a safe distance only so much of a United States court’s jurisdiction as might secure . . . a dismissal while carefully shielding [itself] from the possibility of a penal sanction.’” Hayes, 118 F. Supp. 3d at 625–26 (brackets omitted) (quoting Collazos v. United States, 368 F.3d 190, 200 (2d Cir. 2004)); see also Niemi v. Lasshofer, 728 F.3d 1252, 1255 (10th Cir. 2013).

IV. Conclusion & Order For the reasons stated above, the Court denies Halkbank’s application, dated November 19, 2019, to make a special appearance."

    Back on November 26 the US Attorney office  opposed the special appearance, noting "Halkbank participates in a U.S. Department of Agriculture program that provides guaranteed financing for certain buyers of U.S. agricultural exports.  In order to shield its access to these essential U.S. financial markets and facilities, Halkbank went to extraordinary lengths to conceal the scheme from Treasury officials. Because of Halkbank’s relationships with the Central Bank of Iran, NIOC, and other Iranian government and private entities, sanctions against the Government of Iran had particular significance for Halkbank and Treasury believed Halkbank was at particular risk of Iranian sanctions-evasion efforts. Accordingly, Treasury officials maintained continuous and in-depth communications with Halkbank’s top executives. These included in-person meetings held in Treasury’s Washington, D.C. offices and Halkbank’s Turkey offices; telephone calls between Halkbank executives in Turkey and Treasury officials in the United States; and letter and email correspondence." We'll have more on this.

  King & Spalding's Andrew C. Hruska wanted to file by ECF without making a notice of appearance. Judge Berman said he believes a notice of appearance is required, and would not give legal advise on what should be written on it. King and Spalding said they will file on paper, presumably meaning their briefing.

  Of this lawless attempt to escape the court's reach, Inner City Press asked the UN which has made worse arguments for impunity for bringing cholera to Haiti for its comment (Turkish state media were present in the SDNY on November 5). There has been no answer from the UN.

This case is US v. Turkiye Halk Bankasi A.S., 15-cr-867 (Berman)



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