On January 17, 2023, the US Supreme Court heard oral argument in Turkiye Halk Bankasi A.S. v. United States.
Turkiye Halk Bankasi A.S. (“Halkbank”) was indicted by a grand jury in 2019, and charged with involvement in a scheme to launder billions of dollars worth of proceeds from Iranian oil and natural gas, which was in violation of U.S. sanctions against Iran at the time.
Halkbank, is majority-owned by the government of Turkey and moved to dismiss this indictment, arguing that the court lacked jurisdiction. Halkbank contended that the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) and the fact that the government of Turkey had a majority of its ownership made it immune to criminal prosecution in U.S. federal court. In relying on FSIA, Halkbank asserted that exceptions in FSIA apply only to civil cases, and that even if such exceptions applied in criminal cases, Halkbank Would still be immune under common law standards.
The U.S. District Court rejected the argument put forward by Halkbank, and the Second Circuit affirmed. This Supreme Court granted certiorari on the question of whether US district courts may exercise subject matter jurisdiction over criminal prosecutions against foreign sovereigns and their instrumentalities under 18 U.S.C. § 3231 and in light of FSIA.
This program, recorded January 18, 2023 broke down and analyzed the oral argument.

–Mike Hurst, Partner, Phelps Dunbar LLP

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