February 5, 2015

Bank Asya operation’s economic and legal sanctions

Günal Kurşun

The Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF) has taken over management control of 63 percent of the privileged shares in Bank Asya, Turkey's biggest Islamic lender, as part of a government-operated crackdown on institutions affiliated with the Hizmet movement. Last Tuesday, the Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency (BDDK) ordered the TMSF to take control of 63 percent of the bank's stocks and appointed a new board of directors. The banking watchdog claimed that the bank "violated the condition that it should maintain transparency with an open partnership structure and organizational scheme.”

I became very curious and searched on the internet for a previous example in the world of such a seizure and I found nothing. The government has been carrying out a campaign to force Bank Asya out of business due to its ties with the Hizmet movement. Following severe corruption allegations against key government figures and four ex-ministers that surfaced on Dec. 17 and 25, 2013, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) convinced firms and public institutions to withdraw deposits from the bank in order to damage its financial integrity.

“Throughout last year, the government took a variety of strikes at the lender, and at one point President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan claimed that the bank had ‘already sunk',” reads an article yesterday's Today's Zaman. It was a clear intervention by the president and an attempt to defame Bank Asya for political reasons.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said on TV that this operation is not a political one. As Erdoğan's words contradict Davutoğlu's speech yesterday, we can clearly see that this operation on Bank Asya is political. The legal grounds are ridiculous: Bank administrators did not give their identity records to the BDDK. It is true that all bank administrators have to give details of their identity to the BDDK according to the Banking Law, but a violation of this provision warrants a fine at best. For the first time, we are seeing this provision being presented as legal grounds for seizure, and it is clearly illegal. The measure that the BDDK has asked the TMSF to carry out is disproportionate to the violation, and this issue will be brought to domestic judicial channels as well as to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). Since the ECtHR is an independent and impartial institution, it will find this to be a violation of right to property described in Additional Protocol 1.

By the way, we can say that it is a clear violation of the Constitution as well. The freedom of enterprise is outlined in Article 48 of the Constitution. It reads: “The establishment of private enterprises is free. The state shall take measures to ensure that private enterprises operate in accordance with national economic requirements and social objectives and in security and stability.” What a secure and stable way of ensuring the operation of a private enterprise!

Everyone is sure that the president ordered this operation. Even though the BDDK is an independent administrative authority on paper, it is a known reality that it can not operate against Erdoğan's will. Therefore, it is implied that this operation is a kind of economic revenge on the part of Erdoğan against Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen's Hizmet movement. Is there anyone who still believes that foreign investment will come to Turkey after this arbitrary economic crackdown?

British statesman Winston Churchill said: “Some people regard private enterprise as a predatory tiger to be shot. Others look on it as a cow they can milk. Not enough people see it as a healthy horse, pulling a sturdy wagon.” This week, Erdoğan shot the horse, and we will soon see the outcome for the wagon.

Published on Today's Zaman, 05 February 2015, Thursday