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ANKARA, March 30 The arrest in the United States
of a top Turkish banker charged with participating in a
multi-year scheme to violate sanctions against Iran is a
"completely political" move, Turkish Justice Minister Bekir
Bozdag said on Thursday.
The Halkbank executive is accused of conspiring
with Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab, who is already on
trial. Bozdag said there was no evidence incriminating Zarrab or
The arrest escalates a case that has fuelled tension between
the United States and Turkey. President Tayyip Erdogan has said
he believed U.S. authorities had "ulterior motives" in
prosecuting Zarrab, who was arrested in March 2016 in Miami.
"There is nothing legally sound there and Turkey is facing a
completely political plot," Bozdag told broadcaster A Haber. "It
aims to tarnish the Turkish state, government and president."
Shares of Halkbank, Turkey's fifth-largest listed bank by
assets, endured their biggest one-day fall on Wednesday, falling
14 percent after Deputy General Manager Mehmet Hakan Atilla was
charged. They rose 0.7 percent on Thursday.
Atilla is accused of conspiring with Zarrab to conduct
hundreds of millions of dollars of illegal transactions through
U.S. banks on behalf of Iran's government and other entities in
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is visiting Ankara on
Thursday and will hold talks with Erdogan and other Turkish
(Reporting by Orhan Coskun and Humeyra Pamuk; Writing by Daren
Butler; Editing by David Dolan)