December 28, 2015

Businessman targeted by gov’t disputes ’false reports’

Koza İpek Holding CEO Akın İpek has objected to media reports that a government freeze on his assets abroad is imminent based on charges of financing terrorism, denying that there are any financial transactions that would merit such a decision.

In a series of tweets late last week, İpek said: “I hope the report is not true. If it is, I hope the ministries will listen our defense,” adding that the conglomerate has no suspicious or mysterious financial dealings.

The flagship pro-government daily Sabah said last week that the Finance Ministry's Financial Crimes Investigation Board (MASAK) had asked permission from the Prime Ministry to freeze İpek's overseas assets on charges of financing terrorist activity.

“Thank God, I am not concerned [about the claim],” İpek said, challenging the daily and the government to prove the claims.

In late October the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor's Office ordered that Koza İpek Holding be placed under the management of a trustee panel on allegations that the group purportedly has ties to the Hizmet or Gülen movement, a faith-based community inspired by the teachings of Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, which the government has labeled a terrorist organization as part of a large-scale intimidation campaign of the group over the past three years. The movement has categorically denied the accusation.

Despite the law requiring that trustees appointed to seized companies be independent and objective, most of those appointed to Koza İpek turned out to be either members or supporters of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party).

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

The administrative receivership of Koza Ipek Holding followed similar moves against other institutions said to be affiliated to the Hizmet movement, and it has been perceived by many as unfair and a targeted attack. Since it included the holding's media group, the obstruction of press freedom led opposition parties and journalists from several media organs to pay visits of support to the headquarters of the group's media outlets in İstanbul. İpek has vehemently denied pro-government dailies' claims that there were illegalities in the accounting records of some group companies.

Published on Today's Zaman, 28 December 2015, Monday