An attempt by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan last week to discredit Bank Asya, Turkey's largest Islamic lender, has been brought to the parliamentary agenda in a parliamentary question.
In last week's attack the president said the bank had "already sunk," an apparent defiance of laws prohibiting defamatory remarks about financial institutions.
Mehmet Şeker, a main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) deputy representing Gaziantep, directed an inquiry at Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan questioning the actions taken by banking authorities against the continuous attempts to damage the reputation and financial well-being of the bank.
Consisting of 10 questions, the inquiry's preamble underlined articles in the Banking Law that pertain to the prohibition of any deliberate attacks on or publications about a banking institution that may cause damage to the bank's credibility, image or financial assets.
“This basic rule has been routinely violated for approximately 10 months by the prime minister of the 61st government, his advisers, the 12th president and the media outlets known for their close relations with the government,” the inquiry said.
Şeker's question inquired into whether or not any legal action has been taken against the people and media outlets that have been violating the law; and if not, the question asked what the reasons are for not starting legal proceedings.
On Tuesday, Erdoğan explicitly threatened the Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency (BDDK), the independent regulatory body, for not taking action against Bank Asya, asking regulators to seize it. The regulators believed no such action was necessary. He continued with accusations on Thursday, claiming that the bank had already failed.
Some media outlets and a news agency speculated that the BDDK had put Bank Asya within the scope of Articles 68, 70 and 71, said Şeker, though the outlets did not agree as to which article. Şeker's inquiry pointed to these speculations and asked which are true.
The first two of the articles Şeker referenced in the BDDK law involve gradual measures the agency is instructed to take to help a bank get rid of its financial troubles. The last article pertains to the seizure of a bank in an incurably bad situation.
While Bank Asya has been rumored in a news story to have been taken over by the BDDK, the bank continues to raise capital. Further, while nothing is known for certain about the BDDK's actions, the president has publicly announced that the bank has failed, said Şeker in his inquiry.
Other queries in the parliamentary question included: “What public companies and institutions withdrew their money from Bank Asya before their due dates? What is the amount of the losses these public institutions suffered due to these early withdrawals? What is the starting date, cause and scope of Bank Asya's liquidity problem? How many banks are there as of today that have fallen within the scope of Articles 68 or 70 by the BDDK? What are those banks and for what reasons do they fall within the scope of these articles? What are the decisions and steps taken by the BDDK so far regarding Bank Asya? What kinds of legal action have been taken up to the present against those who have violated the Banking Law with speeches discrediting Bank Asya's prestige and wealth? If no legal action has been taken, what was the reason?”
Former minister: Pressure on banks shakes confidence
Former Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Industry and Trade Minister Ali Coşkun warned the government that applying political pressure on the BDDK or banks will not only damage these banks and their customers but will also have wider consequences on the economy as a whole. In an interview with the Bugün daily, Coşkun said such interventions may, for instance, pave the way for poor assessments of Turkey by credit rating agencies, resulting in massive capital outflows.
Published on Sunday's Zaman, 21 September 2014, Sunday