Shares in Turkish state lender Halkbank surged up to 9% during the day Monday after United States federal chief prosecutor Geoffrey Berman, who oversaw a court case against the bank, stepped down over the weekend.
Shares were up 6.71% at 5:35 p.m. local time and traded at TL 6.52 after they opened at TL 6.48, up from a previous close of TL 6.11.
An extraordinary standoff between the U.S. Justice Department and Manhattan U.S. Attorney Berman ended on Saturday when the prosecutor agreed to step down as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, the office that had been investigating President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani.
Berman's confirmation of his departure came after Attorney General William Barr told him he had been fired by Trump at Barr's request, and that Berman's hand-picked No. 2, Deputy U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss, would become Acting U.S. Attorney until a permanent replacement is installed.
U.S. prosecutors accused Halbank of helping Iran evade U.S. sanctions in a case that has strained U.S.-Turkey relations. The Turkish bank denied any wrong-doing. Charges were announced last October and followed related charges brought by U.S. prosecutors against nine individuals since 2016.
They included former Halkbank executive Mehmet Hakan Atilla, who was convicted in January 2018 after another defendant, Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab pleaded guilty and testified against him.
Atilla returned to Turkey last year after leaving prison and became general manager of the Borsa Istanbul Stock Exchange (BIST).
The lender in late March pleaded not guilty to the charges in a federal court in Manhattan. The plea was entered by the bank's U.S. lawyer at a hearing conducted by teleconference because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The case accused Halkbank of using money servicers and front companies in Iran, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates to evade sanctions through sham transactions in gold, food and medicine.
The bank in late February agreed to enter the formal plea of not guilty to the charges, backing down from its previous refusal to answer the allegations.
A court in early December denied Halkbank's request to make a "special and limited appearance" to have the case dropped without having to formally participate in the proceedings.
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