February 6, 2015

CHP: Bank Asya operation unlawful, banditry committed by gov’t

Main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) parliamentary group Deputy Chairman Engin Altay has said the takeover of the management of Bank Asya by the state-run Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF), widely described as a politically motivated move designed to intimidate, is completely unlawful, saying it is a crime committed by the government.

Speaking during a parliamentary press conference held at Parliament on Friday, Altay said: “What the government is doing now is bullying, illegal and banditry. There is no difference between robbing a bank's cash boxes with guns and intervening in a bank with unlawful practices. Both of them are the same. They are banditry.”

The TMSF in an operation late on Tuesday evening suddenly took control of the board of Bank Asya, Turkey's biggest Islamic lender. Bank Asya, which is affiliated with the Gülen movement, also known as the Hizmet movement and inspired by the teachings of Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, is one of the three strongest banks in the country 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) had 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 the bank had "violated the conditions that it should maintain transparency with an open partnership structure and organizational scheme."

Other politicians have also voiced strong reactions against the takeover of Bank Asya on Tuesday. Speaking with the press following an event in Ankara on Friday, Pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) Co-chairman Selahattin Demirtaş said it is nonsensical to say that the Bank Asya operation is not politically motivated.

“The minister [Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekçi] and the prime minister [Ahmet Davutoğlu] said the operation is not political but they have to be honest and share their actual plans and objectives with the public. If there is any serious crime, they have to share evidence and documents with the public and prosecutors. We earlier heard the president [Recep Tayyip Erdoğan] and the prime minister directly saying the practices of the bank should be terminated. Despite these calls from them, claiming that the operation is not political is nothing more than an act to deceive the public. They have to be honest here,” he said.

Pointing out that there is a political struggle between the government and the Gülen movement, Demirtaş said, “However, it is not right [for the government] to conduct this war by using laws and the judiciary [as instruments].”

The Gülen movement has been the 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.

Agreeing that the Bank Asya operation is completely political, CHP Deputy Chairman Faik Öztrak noted that the TMSF took over the management of Bank Asya by citing the lack of certain key documents as the reason why the bank is unable to maintain its operations. Öztrak said the bank should only be penalized with a fine and should not have been taken over for this reason.

Noting that this is completely unlawful, Öztrak also claimed that the government will place those bureaucrats who committed this unlawful practice under immunity by making them lawmakers in the upcoming general elections to be held in June.

CHP Gaziantep deputy Mehmet Şeker noted that the operation against Bank Asya is political and hurts the country's economy. “What is taking place currently shows us that Turkey has already returned to the Milli Şef [national chief] period.”

“National chief” is a title used to refer to former CHP Chairman İsmet İnönü who succeeded Mustafa Kemal Atatürk as the president of Turkey. He served as president between 1938 and 1945, a period that is defined as the “national chief period.” This period is known for an authoritarian method of governing in Turkey.

Holding a press conference in İzmir on Friday, opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) parliamentary group Deputy Chairman Oktay Vural said a political game is being played on Bank Asya, adding that he considers the actions of the TMSF “freaky.” Vural said the operation targeting Bank Asya aims to sink the bank, adding that the government is the one engaging in manipulations and speculations against the bank.

Published on Today's Zaman, 06 February 2015, Friday