Turkey-Owned Bank Implicated in Money Laundering Case Hires Trump-Connected Lobbying Firm

By Chuck Ross

A bank controlled by the Turkish government that has been implicated in a massive money laundering scheme has hired a Florida based lobbying firm with close ties to the Trump White House.

The lobbying firm, Ballard Partners, and the Bank, Halkbank, signed a $125,000 a month contract the previous week, according to a Foreign Agents Registration Act disclosure filed with the Justice Department.

Brian Ballard, the owner of Ballard Partners, was a top Trump campaign fundraiser in Florida. He was also appointed by Trump to serve as vice chairman of the Republican’s Inaugural Committee and served as a member of the Presidential Transition Finance Committee.

According to the Ballard-Halkbank contract, it appears that Ballard plans to leverage those White House connections to help the bank. The firm will represent Halkbank “before the Departments of Treasure, State, and Justice, and the Executive Office of the President,” the contract reads.

US Justice Department Accused Mehmet Atilla for Conspiring Money Laundering

Mehmet Atilla, a deputy CEO of Halkbank, has been accused by the Justice Department of conspiring with Reza Zarrab, a wealthy Iranian-Turkish gold trader who allegedly helped Iran launder money through the U.S financial system in order to avoid sanctions.

Atilla was arrested in March just after he landed at JFK International Airport. He and Zarrab are slated to go to trial in October.

The Turkish government has been intensely interested in the Zarrab case. Many Turkey analysts say that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan fears that a public trial of Zarrab will expose illicit activities by the Turkish leader and his family.

Erdogan has reportedly brought up the case during meetings and conversations with U.S officials, including President Donald Trump and President Barrack Obama. He has also publicly suggested that he is holding U.S citizens as prisoners in Turkey as leverage to force Zarrab’s release.

Besides using rhetoric to free Zarrab, the Turkish government has also lobbied U.S government agencies and the White House on the case.

Turkey Pays Ballard $125,000 a Month

In May, the Turkish embassy in the U.S directly hired Ballard Partners, a lobbying shop based in Florida. As with the Halkbank contract, Ballard is paid $125,000 per month by the Turkish government.

Ballard Partners is not the only firm hired to quash the Zarrab matter. Zarrab himself hired former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, an outside adviser to Trump, and former Attorney General, Michael Mukasey as part of his legal team.

Zarrab’s hiring of Giuliani and Mukasey has stoked concerns that the two Trump associates are using their political clout to help out their client. There has been some speculation that the Turkish government is also funding Zarrab’s legal effort.

Aykan Erdemir, a senior fellow at Foundation for Defense of Democracies and former member of the Turkish parliament, calls the timing of the Ballard hiring “conspicuous” given that the trials for Zarrab and Atilla are set to begin in the next couple of months.

“Turkish public lender Halkbank seems to be joining the Turkish government’s lobbying efforts in the Reza Zarrab case, and the bank doesn’t seem to be worried about the optics,” Erdemir told The Daily Caller. He also noted that Halbank’s contract appears to replicate the Turkish government’s agreement with Ballard.

“This move, which came only three days after President Erdogan had granted himself by decree the authority to make swap deals, will only add fuel to the rumors that Ankara is looking for a swap deal for Reza Zarrab,” Erdemir says.

The Daily Caller (8/31/17)

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Hurricane Harvey: St. Kevork Parish Church in Houston Needs a Helping Hand

A week ago, no one could have predicted the effect Hurricane Harvey would have on America’s Gulf Coast. But as our entire country has witnessed with dismay, the flooding in Houston has become one of the worst natural disasters in U.S history. This “local” story has now captured the attention of the world.

Regrettably, the Armenian Parish in Houston, the St. Kevork Church community has not been spared in the devastation. Parish pastor Rev. Fr. Martiros Hakobyan and parish council chair Areg Sahakian estimate that a quarter of the parishioners have been severely affected—with many Armenian facilities displaced, their family homes uninhabitable, their personal belongings lost.

In a directive this week, Diocesan Primate Archbishop Khajag Barsamian called on all parishes to hold special collections on each of the Sundays of September–starting September 3rd, and continuing on September 10, 17 and 24–and to help provide relief to the affected people of St. Kevork Church.

Checks should be made to the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (630 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10016), with the memo: St. Kevork Flood Relief. The Diocese will be transferring funds to the Houston parish every few days, as proceeds from each week’s parish collections arrive.

Donations can also be made on the Eastern Diocese’s secure server (please select “Other” in the drop-down menu, and type “St. Kevork Flood Relief” ion the space provided).

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Iowa Becomes the 47th State to Officially Recognize the Armenian Genocide

DES MOINES, IOWA — On Thursday, August 24, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed a proclamation memorializing the Armenian Genocide and declaring October 2017 as “Armenia Awareness Month” in the Hawkeye State, announced the ANC.

Iowa is now the 47th U.S State to officially recognize the Armenian Genocide.

The proclamation signing was attended by members of the Armenian Community, including Father Tadeos Barseghyan of the St. Sahag Armenian Church of Minnesota, and Armen Sahakyan of the Armenian National Committee of America—Easter Region (ANCA-ER).

“Iowa’s commemoration and condemnation of the Armenian Genocide striles a powerful blow against the hatred and intolerance which contribute to the ongoing the vicious cycle of genocide plaguing society to this day,” said Sahakyan, an ANCA-ER Board Member, and added: “We would like to thank Governor Reynolds, Representative Art Staed, and all of our coalition partners for their principled stance in ensuring that truth prevails against international attempts to subvert justice for this and all other crimes against humanity.”

Coordinator for the Iowans for Armenia, Charles Crawley said, “As an civilized humanity, we all should care about the Armenian Genocide and all other crimes against humanity. ‘Iowans for Armenia’ is proud to continue the relationship created between the American and Armenian people that stretches back to humanitarian assistance provided by the missionaries and people of good conscience of our great state through the Near East Relief. Today’s signing of the proclamation was an important step in securing some measure of justice for the Armenian, Assyrian, and Greek people.”

Noting that the Ottoman Turkish government’s crime “still requires justice,” Governor Reynolds’ Proclamation cited Adolph Hitler’s ominous reference to the murder of the Armenian people just days prior to his invasion of Poland and the ensuing Holocaust, which claimed the lives of over 6 million Jews and resulted in the decimation of other targeted racial and religious minorities. The document recounts the cycle of subsequent genocides of the 20th and 21st centuries, specifically citing the 2016 Congressional condemnation of the Islamic State genocide against the Middle East Christians, Yezidis, and other minorities. It concludes with the assertion that by “recognizing and consistently remembering the Armenian Genocide, the Holocaust and all cases of past and ongoing genocide, we help protect historic memory, ensure that similar atrocities do not occur again and remain vigilant against hatred, persecution and tyranny.”

Philos Project Executive Director

The Philos Project Executive Director Robert Nicholson noted, “The Ottoman Genocide of the Armenian people was one of the most brutal acts in history and clear evidence that evil still moves in the world. To deny the genocide is to ignore that evil, and to ignore that evil is to betray our values as Americans. By recognizing the genocide, the people of Iowa are declaring their willingness to defend human life, protect minority communities, and preserve our national heritage. We at the Philos Project thank and congratulate Governor Reynolds for her boldness and moral clarity. She epitomizes the kind of principled leader we need more of today.”

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Pasadena City Delegation Set to Begin Second Official Sister Cities Visit ot Vanadzor Armenia

PASADENA- CA After over a year of planning, an official California delegation from the City of Pasadena, led by members of the Pasadena Chapter of the Armenian National Committee of America, City of Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek, Pasadena City Councilmember and Vice Mayor John J. Kennedy, Pasadena Unified School District Board of Education President Vruyr Boulghourjian and other local elected officials from the cities of Pasadena, Sierra Madre, and Glendale, along with several members of the Pasadena Sister Cities Committee and other prominent community leaders, residents, supporters and friends, are set to embark on their official visit to the Republic of Armenia.

During their 11 day trip, the delegation will participate on a 8 day in-depth visit to Armenia, followed by a 3 day visit to Pasadena’s Sister City, Vanadzor, Armenia. This will be the second such Pasadena City delegation to visit the Republic of Armenia, the first of which was hosted, also by the ANCA Pasadena, back in July 2004 and will include a special visit to Pasadena’s Sister City of Vanadzor. The Pasadena delegation will begin their tour of Armenia on August 31st and will return September 10th.

Accompanying the Pasadena Mayor and the Councilman are: ANCA Pasadena Chairman Boghos (Bo) Patatian, ANCA Pasadena Advisory Board Member and City of Pasadena Treasurer & Deputy of Finance Director, Vicken Erganian and David Gevorkyan, along with other officials from the cities of Pasadena, Sierra Madre, and Glendale. The trip, initiated under the stewardship of Mayor Tornek and will be the Mayor’s and many others first trip to Armenia.

Established by the Pasadena City Council in August of 1960, the Pasadena Sister City Committee (PSCC) is an official committee of the City of Pasadena. This cross-cultural linking enriches each city with cultural, social, and economic benefits. Pasadena and its five sister cities of Mishima, Japan (established in 1957), Ludwigshafe, Germany (established in 1948 predates SCI), Jarvenpaa, Finland (established in 1983), Xicheng City of Beijing, China (established in 1999), and Vanadzor, Armenia (established in 1991).

Vanadzor was established as Pasadena’s fourth Sister City in 1991. Previously known and Kirovakan, Gharak’ilisa, it is located in the northwestern region of Armenia, about 80 miles north of Yerevan. With a population of about 175,000, it is the third largest city in Armenia and the capital of the Lori Province. Known for its rich natural beauty and mineral springs, Vanadzor is undergoing a rebirth and revitalization after it was nearly destroyed in the 1988 that rocked Armenia. The City of Pasadena, in collaboration with the Pasadena Sister City Commission, has even erected on the City Hall grounds the ‘Sister City Trees’ with two plaques which mark a small orchard of trees across Garfield Street from City Hall, south of Holly Street and it is one of those plaques which commemorates the sister-city relationship between Pasadena and Vanadzor, Armenia.

Upon their arrival to Armenia, the Mayor, Vice Mayor and others will be received by and met with the Mayor of Yerevan and later visit the American University of Armenia, Dzidzernagapert – the Armenian Genocide Monument, Yerablur – the national military cemetery and burial place where bodies of Armenian liberators, military officers and soldiers who lost their lives during the Nagorno-Karabakh war are laid to rest, the U.S Embassy in Armenia and Etchmiadzin, the Holy See of the Armenian Church.

Upon its arrival to Vanadzor, the Delegation will be received with an official Reception by the Governor of the Lori Region, will visit Vanadzor Technology Center (VTC), the Gloria Sewing Factory, ride the famous Ropeway, and visit the Prelacy of Diocese of Gougark. Also, while in Vanadzor, the Delegation will attend an Official reception in the Municipality of Vanadzor.

The delegation will also include several other distinguished local elected officials and other prominent community leaders namely: Councilmember John Harabedian of the City of Sierra Madre, Councilmember Zareh Sinanyan of the City of Glendale. and Pasadena Sister Cities Committee Board Members: President Fred Alcantar, Secretary Ofelia Cavazos Edmonson, Vanadzor Chairperson Joan Marie Reyes, Student Exchange coordinator, Margaret Gihanian and former President of the Pasadena Sister Cities Committee, Michael Warner.

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Azerbaijan Blacklists Portuguese Lawmaker for Visiting Artsakh

Azerbaijan will put Portuguese MP Rubina Berardo on its black list for visiting Artsakh, foreign ministry spokesman Hikmat Hajiyev said, according to APA.

Also, the foreign ministry has summoned Portugal’s charge d’affaires over Berardo’s visit.

The MP took the trip to Artsakh in mid-August and held several meetings there. The Portuguese diplomat, in turn, said that the MP’s visit was of a private nature.

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Illinois Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi Joins Growing Armenia Caucus

WASHINGTON, D.C — the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) announced that Freshman Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) joined the Congressional Caucus on Armenian issues, supporting United States Armenia relations.

Congressman Krishnamoorthi of Illinois’ 8th District currently serves on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

As part of the Terjenian-Thomas Assembly Internship Program, Hugh Rabjohns, who attends Texas Christian University and grew up in Wilmette, Illinois, interned in Congressman Krishnamoorthi’s office this summer in Washington, D.C.

“It is an honor to have Congressman Krishnamoorthi joins the Armenian Caucus. His broad view of the world and respect for history uniquely equips him to play a leading role,” Illinois-based Assembly Board Member Oscar Tatosian said. “His entrepreneurial spirit is the kind of friend Armenia needs,” he added.

Rep. Krishnamoorthi attended the Armenian Genocide Commemoration this past April on Capitol Hill and signed a bipartisan letter to President Donald Trump urging him to reaffirm the Armenian Genocide. The Congressman also issued the following statement commemorating the Genocide: “Today on the 102nd anniversary of the beginning of the Armenian Genocide, we recognize the murder of 1.5 million Armenian men, women, and children in the years that followed under the direction of the Ottoman Empire. Despite the truth of this history and the magnitude of these crimes, our government remains one of only three in the world not to recognize the genocide committed against the Armenian people. To deny the Armenian Genocide is to deny the humanity of its victims and the demands of our own.”

In June, Rep. Krishnamoorthi wrote an op-ed in The Hill titled “Did Turkey’s payments to Michael Flynn delay our military operations against ISIA?” where he explained: “Press and public attention have been focused largely on the Trump administration’s relationship with Russia, and there is much to be learned. Questions regarding Turkey, however, reveal more clearly how personal considerations may have overridden our national interests.”

Earlier this year, the Assembly highlighted Turkey’s attempts to gain surreptitious influence over U.S officials and media to the detriment of U.S national security, and urged the Senate and House Intelligence Committees to investigate the matter.

The Assembly’s letter to the Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC), Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA), House Intelligence Chairman David Nunes (R-CA), and Ranking Member Adam Schiff (D-CA) read in part: “We are writing to urge your thorough investigation of President Erdogan’s Turkey in an expanded review of foreign governments and their activities that compromise American’s democratic institutions to allow massive human rights violations and work against the United States in ways that are totally out of legal or diplomatic bounds.”

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Iranian Official Abkar Torkan Says Armenia Is Bridge to Eurasia and EU Markets

MOSCOW — Armenia as a part of North-South Transport Corridor is a bridge for Iranian businessmen to access Eurasia and Europe markets, an Iranian senior officials said on Friday.

“Armenia is a country with a bright prospect and its economic and trade officials have an ambitious vision for its development by 2035,” Iranian President’s Advisor Akbar Torkan said in a meeting with Iranian businessmen based in Armenia.

Torkan urged Iranian governmental and private sectors to seize the opportunity to invest in Armenia and do business with the country and use at the same time the country’s geographical position to access the Eurasia’s 180 million people market and the markets in Europe as well to export Iranian products and services.

Torkan and the accompanying delegation from Aras free zone in their three-day visit to Armenia met withe Minister of Economic Development and Investments Suren Karayan, Minister of Energy Infrastructures and Natural Resources Ashot Manukyan, as well as Minister of International Economic Integration and Reforms Vice Prime Minister Vache Gabrielyan.

A memorandum of understanding was also inked between officials from the two countries’ free economic zones.

The International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) is based on an agreement originally signed between Russia, Iran, and India in 2000.

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Google Voice is Now Available in Armenian

Google has announced that it has added 30 new languages to its voice recognition system. Armenian is among them, Armenia Sputnik reports.

It is already possible to make a voice search in Armenian. The company has added 30 new languages to its Google Voice Search program, including Armenian.

To gather the voice samples Google worked with native speakers. They system is now able to work with the requests in added languages, the official Google blog reports.

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Azerbaijan Building Up Forces in Nakhichevan

Azerbaijan is carrying out a substantial military buildup in the exclave of Nakhichevan,as the territory’s strategic significance increases for both Baku and its foe, Armenia.

Nakhichevan is separated from the rest of Azerbaijan by a slice of southern Armenia, and it does not border Nagorno-Karabakh, the focus of the ongoing conflict between the two states. But it is the closest part of Azerbaijani territory to Yerevan and other strategic Armenian targets. Accordingly, with the prospect of a renewal of total war appearing to increase, Nakhichevan is becoming a flashpoint.

Another strategic consideration for Azerbaijani planners is that Nakhichevan is the ancestral home of President Ilham Aliyev’s family.

Azerbaijan has set up a new unit, known as the Combined Army Unit (Special Forces), based in Nakhichevan. It also has sent new air defense systems to the territory, as well as rockets and artillery, including Smerch, T-300 Kasirga, and T-122 Sakarya multiple launch rocket systems. And it now holds annual joint military exercises in Nakhichevan with Turkey.

“The enemy should know that Kakhichevan is defended by the most professional army,” said Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov at the most recent iteration of the exercises in June.

Nakhichevan saw fighting during the hot phase of the Karabakh conflict in the early 1990s, but the region was relatively quiet in the more recent past.

Of late, sniping and shelling has centered around the line of contact separating the two sides in and around Karabakh. That has begun to change, though, as the Nakhichevan-Armenia border saw several skirmishes in the April 2016 flare-up of heavy fighting. And in August 2016, Azerbaijan shot down a reconnaissance drone that it said Armenia had sent into Nakhichevan.

“The enemy must be aware that if there is a provocation against Nakhichevan, we will initiate a robust response, and within a few minutes all [Armenia's] major cities will be attacked,” Hasanov said shortly after last April’s fighting. “Everyone knows that Nakhichevan’s defense has been organized at the higher level and the most professional army is defending Nakhichevan.”

The buildup in Nakhichevan has been closely monitored in Armenia. “We need to understand that we face a threat of the renewal of hostilities, and that the aggression from the enemy could be initiated from any direction,” said Armenian analyst Grant Melik Shahnazaryan.

Azerbaijan’s overhaul in Nakhichevan began in about 2013, when Hasanov carried out a shakeup of senior military officer in the region, and President Aliyev signed a decree to bolster the military forces in Nakhichevan.

At present, Azerbaijan has about 20,000 soldiers based in Nakhichevan (out of an estimated 67,000 total active duty troops), and around 400 armored vehicles, aircraft, air defense systems, and artillery systems. The focus has not been on the quantity of forces, but the quality, one Azerbaijani officer told EurasiaNet.org, speaking on condition of anonimity. “The transformation was not in the number of active personnel — the improvement was to be internal structure of the forces, and greater autonomy in decision making in the event of a security threat,” the officer said.

Turkish assistance has played a key role in the buildup. Ankara’s action are connect to its security guarantee for Nakhichevan that it maintains under the terms of the 1921 Kars Treaty between Turkey and the Soviet Union.

In addition to the annual exercises with Turkey, Azerbaijan has sought to increase Turkey’s visibility as a military player in the region, for example by holding a trilateral defense ministerial meeting between Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey there. In addition, a kind of gentlemen’s agreement has been established: when senior Turkish military officers or civilian working on defense issues visit Azerbaijan, they also stop in Nakhichevan.

The buildup has gained new impetus in the last year. After Armenia’s acquisition of powerful Russian Iskander ballistic missiles — which for the first time has opened up the possibility of striking Baku oil infrastructure, and other strategic targets in Azerbaijan — Baku has increasingly referred to Nakhichevan’s military value as a location for a counterattack. The border of Nakhichevan is just 60 kilometers from Yerevan, meaning that Azerbaijan’s Smerches (with a range of 90 kilometers) and the Kasirgas (100 to 120 kilometers) could easily reach the capital.

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Daylin Leach, Advocate of Armenian Rights, Running for Congress for the Pennsylvania 7th Congressional District

Daylin Leach, a staunch advocate of Armenian rights, is running for Congress for Pennsylvania’s 7th District.

He is the son-in-law of Dr. Robert Mirak, well known community leader, author of Armenian studies and philanthropist. Educated at Temple University and the University of Houston Law Center, Leach was elected in 2002 to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and the Pennsylvania Senate in 2008, where he has served on various important committees.

During his 15 years in the legislature, he has been a champion of the Armenian community. He has introduced and passed the Armenian Genocide resolution every year.

Two years ago, the Turkish Consulate in New York sent a diplomat down to Leach’s office to persuade him that the Genocide never happened. That meeting did not go well. He has been the featured speaker at numerous Martyrs’ Day commemorations in Philadelphia. He spoke movingly about what remembering the Genocide means to him. He has also introduced a resolution on Nagorno-Karabakh. Daylin Leach, and his wife of 19 years, Jennifer Mirak, are currently planning a trip to Armenia to expose their two children to their Armenian heritage.

Leach has championed good government, advocating repeal of Citizens United, eliminating gerrymandering and restoring civility to the political arena. His priorities also include investing in infrastructure to create good jobs, raising the minimum wage, and creating a free college option. Those interested in the campaign can go to www.votedaylin.com

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