August 8, 2014

Opposition: Erdoğan violated law protecting lenders

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's open targeting of private Islamic lender Bank Asya is a clear violation of a law regulating and protecting financial institutions, and the prime minister should be held accountable for this, the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) said on Friday.

Recalling that Erdoğan made comments in public regarding alleged financial troubles for Bank Asya, CHP Deputy Chairman Faik Öztırak said on Friday in Ankara that the bank should file a lawsuit against Erdoğan for his “open violation of laws.” Within the scope of relevant articles in Turkey's Banking Law regarding the protection of the credibility of financial institutions, public statements that may harm lenders are forbidden.

Customer confidentiality is a basic principle of banking. Government figures are breaching the law and the Turkish Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency (BDDK) must do something, Öztırak asserted on Friday.

Bank Asya has seen its profits and capital base deteriorate since it found itself in the crosshairs of remarks made by Erdogan. Market observers have interpreted Erdoğan's comments about Bank Asya as part of government efforts to crush the lender as a form of vengeance against the faith-based Hizmet movement, with which Bank Asya is affiliated.

Pressure on Bank Asya intensified on Thursday when authorities cancelled its tax collection and social security payment deals. The bank also said in a separate statement on Friday that it has not seen a significant impact from the Social Security Institution cancellation of its contract with the bank, effective Sept. 8.

Bank Asya said an exclusive deal with Qatar Islamic Bank (QIB) to acquire a stake in the Turkish lender was annulled, opening the way for alternative suitors. Bank Asya attempted to form a partnership earlier this year with QIB but sources told Reuters last month that QIB and Bank Asya had ended talks after a disagreement over prices.

The Turkish lender said on Friday in a statement to the Istanbul stock exchange that the exclusivity deal with QIB, under which Bank Asya could not pursue an offer from another potential buyer, was terminated as of Aug. 8, so it could receive formal bids from Turkish investors.

Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan said on Wednesday that state-run Ziraat Bank, which is looking to launch its own Islamic banking unit, could buy Bank Asya, but an advisor to Erdoğan later denied such a plan. Babacan stood by his comments on Thursday, saying he had clearly explained developments regarding Bank Asya a day earlier and there was no new information.

Ziraat Bank is seen as the most likely partner for Bank Asya but the two banks have not officially begun talks, sources familiar with the matter said last month.

State-owned companies and institutional depositors loyal to Erdogan have withdrawn TL 4 billion ($1.8 billion), or some 20 percent of the bank's deposits, earlier in the year, according to media reports.

Published on Today's Zaman, 08 August 2014, Friday

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