February 10, 2015

Lawyer: Interim board leaked Bank Asya customer info

Interim board members of Bank Asya who were appointed after the state-run Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF) took control of the lender last week have been leaking private customer information and the whole database of the bank, Bank Asya's lawyer, Süleyman Taşbaş, claimed on Monday.

Speaking to the press in front of the court where he went to file a lawsuit for an injunction against the takeover of the bank, Taşbaş said the interim board of the lender has been unlawfully leaking all kinds of information, documents and technical data as well as bank's whole customer database. However, he maintained, the responsibility arising from the disclosure of such information falls on the Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency (BDDK), the TMSF and interim board members.

In this latest example of a smear campaign led by high-level state officials against dissenting voices and institutions affiliated with perceived opponents of the government for over a year, the BDDK ordered on Feb. 3 a takeover of the management of 63 percent of Bank Asya's A-type shares, the owners of which have the exclusive right to nominate board members for the vote. The BDDK then handed over control of the bank to the TMSF.

Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli argued on Monday that it was President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who unlawfully ordered the takeover. Recalling earlier allegations made by Erdoğan, who once falsely alleged that Bank Asya had collapsed, Bahçeli said the basic principles of economy have been disregarded, and that the economic security and the needs of citizens are not being treated as worthy of consideration.

Though Erdoğan is nominally fighting a battle against what he calls an "interest rate lobby," Bahçeli said Erdoğan is in fact serving a "foreign exchange lobby," as the real value of the money in individuals' pockets will further decline as long as the Turkish lira continues to depreciate against the US dollar.

While addressing top business leaders in mid-September of last year, Erdoğan denied assertions that he was spearheading a campaign to sink Bank Asya, even going so far as to say it had already sunk despite the fact that the lender is an openly traded private company.

Since the TMSF took over the management of the lender, deposit holders and other individuals have been protesting the decision in front of the headquarters of the bank, in İstanbul's Ümraniye district. As the bank's capital adequacy ratio is one of the highest in the industry, the aim of the government seems to be to force deposit holders to withdraw money from their accounts, pushing the bank in financial difficulty and eventually seizing it.

Nevertheless, people have rushed to local branches of the bank throughout the country in a clear show of solidarity, effectively increasing its capital adequacy ratio. Several people have reported that police officers in front of the branches are taking photographs of those protesting at the branches, and that they are keeping track so as to prepare a "blacklist" of sorts.

Following the night of Feb. 3, police officers surrounded the headquarters of the lender with barricades, checked the staff ID cards of people around it and barred other personnel from approaching the office. In addition, the police prevented reporters from the Cihan news agency, the Zaman daily and the Bugün daily from listening to statements given by TMSF officials right after the raid.

Published on Today's Zaman, 10 February 2015, Tuesday