Denizbank exempted from US sanctions as direct talks yield result

Denizbank exempted from US sanctions as direct talks yield result

Hülya Güler ISTANBUL
Denizbank exempted from US sanctions as direct talks yield result

Denizbank operates under Turkisn code despite its Russian ownership. says General Manager Hakan Ateş, also ensuring that no resource transfers were made to Sberbank, the parent company. AA photo

Direct talks with U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker played a large role in convincing the U.S. Treasury to exempt Denizbank, a Turkish bank owned by Russia’s Sberbank, from sanctions imposed on Russian lenders, according to General Manager Hakan Ateş.

The United States exempted Denizbank on Oct. 6 from broader U.S. sanctions on the Russian financial industry, allowing the Turkish lender to continue accessing U.S. debt markets despite its Russian ownership.

The sanctions against the country’s stance in the Ukrainian unrest barred U.S. citizens and companies from dealing in any of the Russian bank’s debt with maturities exceeding 30 days. U.S. regulations have also blocked access to U.S. debt financing for any banks that are majority-owned by a sanctioned Russian bank. These sanctions include Sberbank, Russia’s largest in terms of assets, along with Bank of Moscow, Russian Agricultural Bank, Gazprombank, VEB and VTB Bank.

Ateş said they conducted numerous talks in both Ankara and Washington to remove Denizbank from the list, while Pritzker’s visit to Istanbul for the Turkish American Business Association-American Chamber of Commerce meeting on Sept. 30 offered another chance.

The Denizbank GM personally introduced himself to Pritzker at the American Business Forum for Turkey gala on Sept. 30 and presented the issue during a 10-minute talk before also presenting the matter to the U.S. mission, Ateş said.

“I told [Pritzker] that Denizbank operates as a 100 percent Turkish bank and acts under the rules of the [Turkish banking watchdog] BDDK in Turkey,” he said.

The BDDK also operates according to European Union codes, he said, adding that it by no means transfers resources to Sberbank.

Ateş has kept his seat since 1997, as the lender saw two acquisitions, first by Belgium’s Dexia and then by Sberbank.

Since a cease-fire was agreed between pro-Moscow separatists and Ukraine’s government a month ago, most European leaders have focused on preparing for an easing of the sanctions on Russia, instead of making them tougher.

But breaches of the cease-fire in eastern Ukraine have renewed Western diplomatic pressure on Moscow.

The EU will impose tougher sanctions on Russia unless Moscow’s policy in Ukraine changes, Polish Foreign Minister Grzegorz Schetyna said Oct. 7.

Western states accuse Russia of giving military support to the rebels, an allegation the Kremlin has denied.

“If Russia does not change its policy, sanctions will be toughened and they will make themselves felt even more in Russia,” Schetyna said in an interview with Polish broadcaster Polsat News.

“All the European countries are speaking with one voice, together with Australia, the United States and Canada. The free world says ‘no’ to this kind of policy,” he said. “The Polish viewpoint is shared by other countries.”

Poland, which has borders with Russia and Ukraine, has been more hawkish than many other EU states on how to react to Russia’s intervention in Ukraine.