November 3, 2015

Koza İpek Holding appeals appointment of trustees

The lawyer representing Akın İpek, the CEO of Koza İpek Holding, filed a notice of appeal on Tuesday against a court decision to appoint trustees to the holding's 22 companies which include the TV stations Bugün TV and Kanaltürk and the Bugün and Millet newspapers.

Lawyers Hakan Yıldız and Efsun Ünal told the press they had appealed first against the appointment of the trustees and second against their "one-sided decisions" since their appointment on Oct. 26.

In the notice the lawyers stated that the takeover of the holding was based on the opinion of an expert who found it suspicious that there were no faults in the holding's books because such clean accounting practices are rarely achieved in Turkey.

Moreover, the appeal states that the author of the expert report, used as the basis for the takeover by the trustees, was convicted of fraud in 2007 and that a person who was convicted of such a “disgraceful offense” cannot serve as an expert for a court.

“Expert Şafak Ertan Çomaklı and an accomplice whom he tried to pass off as his uncle were sentenced to two years, one month in jail for fraud after a criminal court in Kütahya upheld a complaint from a local academic against them,” the lawyers said in the appeal.

According to the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), the appeal of Koza-İpek will initially be evaluated by the judge who ruled for the appointment of the trustees in the first place. If the judge rules in favor of the appeal, the decision will be reversed and the trustees will be with withdrawn from the holding. In the case of the appeal's rejection, the appeal will be sent to Ankara's 6th Penal Court of Peace for further evaluation.

The management of the 22 companies under Koza İpek Holding has been under administrative receivership since Oct. 26, when an Ankara court ruled that the conglomerate was suspected of financing “terrorism.”

Companies belonging to Koza İpek Holding were initially raided on Sept. 9 by police seeking financial documents after a court issued a search warrant. The Finance Ministry's Financial Crimes Investigation Board (MASAK), which conducted the raids, failed to find any illegal activities or transactions after thoroughly investigating the holding's files and records.

However, on Oct. 26 the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor's Office ordered Koza İpek Holding to be placed under the management of a trustee panel while an investigation continues into the group's purported ties to US-based scholar Fethullah Gülen, a former government ally who is currently wanted for “being the head of and managing a terror organization.”

Two days after the court decision, riot police stormed the headquarters of İpek Media Group in İstanbul as journalists from the paper tried in vain to prevent them from entering the building. Moreover, trustees appointed to the boards of directors of the companies that make up Koza İpek Holding turned out to be either members or supporters of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party). This is despite the fact that trustees appointed to companies seized in this manner are required to be independent and objective.

Ankara-based Koza İpek Holding is active in several sectors, including media, energy and mining.

The media outlets under the holding had been very active in providing a platform for opposition voices to talk about the mistakes of the government, something that is missing in pro-government media. The seizing of Koza İpek Holding came only a week before the Nov. 1 snap election and is part of a larger effort of the AK Party government to silence critical media. This was also illustrated by its removal of a number of TV channels from several satellite platforms.

Published on Today's Zaman, 3 November 2015, Tuesday