February 5, 2015

CHP leader on Bank Asya: No person’s life or property safe in Turkey

Main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has harshly criticized the government over the takeover of the management of Bank Asya by Turkey's state-run Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF), widely described as a politically motivated move designed to intimidate, saying that no person's life or property is safe in Turkey.

Speaking with the press following an event held in Ankara on Thursday, Kılıçdaroğlu said: “No person is secure and no person's life or property is safe in Turkey. Everybody should know this. Bank Asya is a typical example. The death of a 12-year-old boy [shot and killed in Cizre on Jan. 14] is another typical example of this. This is related to the safety of life. The Bank Asya issue is related to the safety of property.”

In an operation late on Tuesday evening, the TMSF suddenly took control of the board of the bank, Turkey's biggest Islamic lender. Bank Asya, which is affiliated with the Gülen movement inspired by the teachings of Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, is one of the three strongest banks in Turkey with a capital adequacy ratio of about 20 percent. The average ratio of banks in Turkey is around 14 to 15 percent. 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 had "violated the conditions that it should maintain transparency with an open partnership structure and organizational scheme."

Other politicians have also reacted harshly to the takeover of Bank Asya. Holding a press conference in Parliament on Thursday, CHP parliamentary group deputy chairman Akif Hamzaçebi said Bank Asya has been targeted by the government in a systematic attack since a major corruption and bribery scandal that implicated various high-ranking government officials became public knowledge on Dec. 17, 2013. “It was even claimed that the bank has already sunk. Some baseless reports were published about it. It is a crime to generate false news against a bank that may damage its prestige. The prime minister of that period [former Prime Minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan] committed this crime and he still continues to commit this crime. He made negative evaluations of the bank's monetary fund,” Hamzaçebi stated.

The Gülen movement has been a target of pro-government circles since the December 2013 corruption scandal. Erdoğan accuses the movement of being behind the probes that implicated Erdoğan as well as several other high-ranking officials in an effort to unseat his government. The movement has denied any such involvement in the investigations or efforts to topple Erdoğan.

Saying that the Bank Asya operation is politically motivated, Hamzaçebi also said that BDDK management acted under political pressure, adding that they will not get away with their recent unlawful practice. “They will suffer the consequences of their deeds [by way of lawsuits and criminal charges].”

CHP's Koç: Erdoğan committing a crime

CHP Deputy Chairman Haluk Koç also accused President Erdoğan of openly working against the bank, noting that in doing so he is committing a crime. “Engaging in manipulation concerning such institutions [banks] is considered to be within the scope of the crime of market fraud and this crime necessitates a prison sentence of two to five years. The decision to take over Bank Asya's management is neither lawful nor related to the economy; it is a completely political decision.”

Emin Haluk Ayhan, deputy chairman of the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), also pointed to the Bank Asya operation during his parliamentary press conference on Thursday, saying that the Erdoğan administration has turned Turkey into a Third World country in which the government takes over companies and banks for political revenge. He also said businessmen and investors no longer have legal assurances or freedoms in Turkey.

Lashing out at the government over the takeover of Bank Asya's management, pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) Co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş recalled the large sum of money seized by the police -- as part of the major graft and bribery investigation on Dec. 17, 2013 -- from shoe boxes found in the home library of former Halkbank General Manager Süleyman Aslan. Speaking sarcastically, Demirtaş said: “It is presumably a crime to keep money at a bank! It is necessary to put the money in shoe boxes for it not to be a crime! That is why they [the government] carried out this operation [targeting Bank Asya].”

Police officers found millions of dollars in banknotes concealed in shoeboxes in Aslan's home library after prosecutors ordered the police to detain suspects and search for evidence in the biggest graft dragnet Turkey has ever seen. A total of $2.5 million and 1.5 million euros -- all in cash -- was discovered in Aslan's home.

The prosecutors decided last October to drop graft charges against 53 suspects in the investigation that resulted in the resignations of four ministers following the exposure of the scandal.

CHP asks whether Erdoğan gave order for Bank Asya operation

CHP Deputy Chairman Umut Oran has submitted a parliamentary question to Ali Babacan, the deputy prime minister responsible for the economy, in which he asked whether the order to take over Bank Asya's management was given by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Oran also asked why BDDK Deputy Chairman Mutalip Ünal met with Erdoğan on Monday and asked whether the Bank Asya issue was discussed during that meeting. Recalling Erdoğan's frequent prior remarks targeting Bank Asya, Oran also asked Babacan why he did not intervene regarding Erdoğan's defamatory remarks targeting the bank, questioning also whether those remarks constitute a crime.

Politicians open accounts with Bank Asya in response

Nation and Justice Party (MİLAD) leader and former Interior Minister İdris Naim Şahin opened an account on Thursday with Bank Asya in protest of the recent questionable Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF) decision to take over the bank's management. Opening an account at Bank Asya's branch in Ankara's Middle East Trade and Industry Center (OSTİM), Şahin said the operation targeting Bank Asya was carried out on an order from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Calling the operation unlawful, Şahin also said: “Today, the thing that should be discussed is not Bank Asya but the way Turkey is being governed. The incident regarding Bank Asya is a reflection of maladministration and an unreasonable way of governing. The bank has undergone 28 inspections within the last 12 months, but no deficiency has been detected.” He added that the management of the bank was taken over just because President Erdoğan wanted it to be done.

Republican People's Party (CHP) deputy Mahmut Tanal also opened an account with Bank Asya in reaction to the recent operation that he calls completely unlawful. He opened the account at the bank's branch in Şanlıurfa on Thursday and deposited TL 1,000. Tanal emphasized that the Bank Asya operation was not carried out because of economic concerns and said that the operation was completely political. “The day when the management of Bank Asya was taken over will pass into history as ‘Dark Tuesday.' Feb. 3, 2015 was a financial coup. This situation shows that no businessmen or investors are safe in Turkey.”

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