August 11, 2015

Bank Asya shareholders track unjust treatment, vow to seek legal redress

The shareholders of recently-seized Islamic-lender Bank Asya and their lawyers have agreed that the attorneys will keep a record of what they call unjust treatment of the bank in order to collect evidence for future legal complaints.

The shareholders have already lodged several complaints with local courts against the takeover of the bank's management, and have vowed to seek compensation in the country's higher courts and with international tribunals if they fail to get a favorable result domestically.

As the independence of the judiciary has been questioned, shareholders want to archive all documents they believe are damaging to their interests and record the names of officials who could be held accountable for violations, one of the shareholders' lawyers, Süleyman Taşbaş, told Today's Zaman.

After an interim management board took control of the bank for three months, the Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency (BDDK) announced in late May that it had handed control of the lender over to the Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF) in what many have called a politically motivated move.

“People are, more or less, aware of the [seizure] decision. Yet several institutions and media outlets have subtly engaged in unfair practices that have caused financial and emotional damage to both the lender and its shareholders during this period,” he added.

Among what the shareholders see as unjust practices are the publication of falsified news reports aimed at intimidating Bank Asya, delays or failures to approve the bank's applications to establish a retirement fund and to invest in certain Islamic finance instruments, the imposition of a ban to prevent Bank Asya shares from being traded on the stock market and moving its shares to a watchlist market, where the shares can only be traded within a certain price range. The Capital Markets Board (SPK) even prepared a draft bill to decriminalize some of these practices, but it has yet to pass in Parliament, Taşbaş said. “You can be sure that what I said is quite far from an exaggeration,” he added.

Ever since the government began to wage war against the faith-based Gülen movement, also known as the Hizmet movement, in late 2013, pro-government newspapers and TV channels have carried almost daily reports of Bank Asya's alleged woes, portraying it as a failing bank. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, on several occasions, made defamatory remarks about the bank and even once claimed that the bank had already gone under. Bank Asya was founded by sympathizers of the Hizmet movement, which the government accuses of masterminding investigations that exposed what was apparently massive corruption and bribery in probes that implicated several cabinet ministers and pro-government businessmen in December 2013. The movement firmly dismisses the claims.

Published on Today's Zaman, 11 August 2015, Tuesday