|The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected a Turkish bank’s main arguments for dismissing a lawsuit accusing it of helping Iran evade U.S. sanctions, but the court sent the case back for additional review.
Halkbank, a bank owned by Turkey, had argued that a federal law, the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976, gave foreign states absolute immunity from criminal prosecution in U.S. courts. It also said federal courts don’t have jurisdiction to oversee the case.
“We disagree with Halkbank on both points,” Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote for himself and six of his eight colleagues.
Still, Kavanaugh said the case should go back to a lower court for further review. He said the lower court “did not fully consider the various arguments regarding common-law immunity that the parties press in this Court.”
The federal government says the bank “participated in the largest-known conspiracy to evade the United States’ economic sanctions on Iran,” laundering billions of dollars worth of Iranian oil and natural gas proceeds. The government says that working with an Iranian-Turkish businessman, the bank created ways for Iran to access the funds — including shipments of gold and fake food shipments. The government says that the schemes “freed up approximately $20 billion of restricted Iranian funds.”
The businessman, Reza Zarrab, has pleaded guilty.
The case was initiated under the Trump administration but was continued by the Biden administration.
The case is Turkiye Halk Bankasi A.S. v. United States, 21-1450.