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US prosecutors seek hefty fines on Halkbank for nonresponse on court charges

Prosecutors in the U.S. asked a New York court to impose fines against Türkiye Halk Bankası AŞ to force it to respond to charges accusing the Turkish state-controlled lender of participating in a scheme to evade sanctions on Iran, the Financial Times reported.

Geoffrey Berman, a U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, is seeking a fine of $1 million for each day the bank does not respond to the criminal charges, with the penalty doubling for every week of further noncompliance. The proposed contempt of court fine could balloon to $1.8 billion after two months, according to the Jan. 22 report.

Berman justified the snowballing system of fines, saying it is "appropriate and necessary" to force the bank to appear in court, the newspaper wrote.

The bank was charged in October 2019 and a hearing has been scheduled for Feb. 10. U.S. District Judge Richard Berman in December 2019 rejected the bank's request to junk the charges and warned about the possibility of the fines.

Halkbank reportedly argued that the U.S. has no jurisdiction over its operations, the FT noted, adding that the lender denies the charges.