The Iran-gold-Halkbank triangle

The Iran-gold-Halkbank triangle

Even though not many of the details have yet been revealed, let us summarize the Iran-Gold-Halkbank triangle which is the talk of the town today. The United States and the European Union started applying a trade embargo on Iran in 2010. Later, blockages and restrictions were applied on financial transactions and transfers. 

In March 2012, it became impossible to make money transfers to Iran through Swift, an international foreign exchange transfer system, and from Iran to other countries. In other words, Iran was not able to receive the foreign exchange sent to it nor was it able to make any payments. 

However, there was an exceptional door left open for such countries as Turkey that buy natural gas and crude oil from Iran. Turkey found a solution to this by opening two domestic accounts in Halkbank for Iran, one in foreign currency and one in Turkish Liras. Iran, on the other hand, was able to hold the amount equivalent to the price of energy it sold to Turkey as a savings account at the bank. Another formula was also found; Iran started converting the Turkish Liras and dollars in its accounts into gold and bringing it to the country. 

First they bought gold from the international market with their savings at Halkbank, and then they physically brought the bullion to Turkey. Because one side of the transaction was a Turkish company, there were no restrictions on it. In our records, gold imports soared. After that, they sent it to their country. This looked like a “gold export” in our foreign trade accounts. However, it was assumed that the value of this export would not come to Turkey. At the end of the day, we paid for our energy imports with gold. 

The United States, in order to prevent this gold transfer, also banned gold exports to Iran at the beginning of July 2013. As of this month, our gold exports to Iran also stopped, which had become an indirect payment for imports. 

It is understood now that this year, gold has been imported with the money accumulated in bank accounts and a major portion of the imported gold worth, around 13 billion dollars, is being kept inside Turkey. 

The year 2010 is a year when Turkey’s gold foreign trade was normal. 2011 was a year when Iran had gold imported to Turkey and 2012 was when Iran carried the precious metal from Turkey to Iran.
During this time, it was seen that Iran was also using its gold accounts in the United Arab Emirates.
In short, in the past three years, a net worth of 8 billion dollars of gold has gone to Iran and probably almost the same amount of gold is waiting inside Turkey because of restrictions. 

Uğur Gürses is a columnist for daily Radikal in which this piece was published on Dec 19. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.