September 17, 2014

'A president trying to sink a bank'

Günay Hilal Aygün

Following a months-long government-backed smear campaign against Turkey's largest Islamic lender, Bank Asya, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan personally targeted the bank in a recent statement to the press. He accused independent regulatory body the Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency (BDDK) of not taking action against Bank Asya, saying the agency must make a decision on the bank and follow through on it. Erdoğan suggested that if citizens cannot withdraw their money from a bank at any time they want, there must be a problem with the bank's capital ratio, adding that he is following the process closely.

Doğan Akın, a columnist writing for online news portal T24, described Erdoğan as “a president who is trying to sink a bank,” in his Wednesday piece. According to Akın, Erdoğan's recent remarks about Bank Asya reveal a tremendous effort by the Turkish state to sink the bank. The president is openly threatening the BDDK, whose independence is guaranteed by law, in connection with Bank Asya, which he aims to sink because of its affiliation with the Hizmet movement, Akın said. The columnist pointed out that with such an attitude, President Erdoğan is violating Article 82 of Banking Law No. 5411, which states, “The Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency has been established as a public legal person with administrative and financial autonomy” and “the agency shall independently perform and use the regulatory and supervisory duties and rights assigned thereto by this law, and the applicable legislation, under its own responsibility.” It also underlines that “no organ, authority or person can give instructions and orders to influence the decisions of the agency.”

Akın's column also mentioned Article 74 of the same law, which states that “no real or legal person shall intentionally damage the reputation, prestige or assets of a bank or disseminate inaccurate news either using any means of communication defined in the Press Code No. 5187, or radio, television, video, the Internet, cable TV or electronic data communication devices and similar tools.” Akın added that Article 158 stipulates a prison sentence of one to three years and a fine equivalent to between 1,000 and 2,000 days in prison for any person who violates the provisions of Article 74.

In another column on Wednesday, the Zaman daily's Mustafa Ünal wrote that Erdoğan's statement about Bank Asya and his threat towards the BDDK are likely to lead to an economic, legal and political crisis. Ünal pointed out that banking is an extremely delicate field of business. “You cannot even joke about it. Let alone as a statesman, even an economist or a journalist cannot just say whatever comes to their mind on this, as he or she knows this would be a crime,” Ünal said.

Published on Today's Zaman, 17 September 2014, Wednesday