Turkey's Halkbank shares jump after U.S. prosecution put on hold

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People walk past a branch of Halkbank in central Istanbul, Turkey, October 16, 2019. REUTERS/Huseyin Aldemir/File Photo

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ISTANBUL, Jan 17 (Reuters) - Turkey's Halkbank shares climbed more than 8% on Monday after a U.S. appeals court put its prosecution by the federal government, for allegedly helping Iran evade American sanctions, on hold while the bank appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Halkbank (HALKB.IS) shares were 8.5% higher at 5.59 lira at 0727 GMT.

"The Bank plans to file a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court," Halkbank said in a statement to the Istanbul stock exchange. "The proceedings in the District Court will be stayed until the process at the Supreme Court is completed," it said.

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The U.S. Department of Justice had opposed a delay, saying Halkbank's "meritless" claims neither raised "substantial" questions nor overcame the public interest in a speedy trial.

Halkbank has pleaded not guilty to bank fraud, money laundering and conspiracy over its alleged use of money servicers and front companies in Iran, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates to evade sanctions.

Its alleged misconduct includes helping Iran secretly transfer $20 billion of restricted funds, including $1 billion laundered through the U.S. financial system, and converting oil revenue into gold and then cash to benefit Iranian interests.

In an Oct. 22 decision, the 2nd Circuit said Halkbank could be prosecuted because its alleged misconduct involved commercial activity that was not covered by sovereign immunity.

Halkbank said that decision conflicted with Supreme Court precedents as it "greenlights the first criminal trial of a foreign sovereign in the nation's history."

It also said it would suffer irreparable harm if forced to defend against "a case from which it is immune."

The Supreme Court denies most appeals. In its last term it received 5,307 filings and heard arguments in 72 cases.

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Reporting by Berna Suleymanoglu; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Jonathan Spicer

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