December 20, 2015

Asya shareholders being forced to sell lender, lawyer says

Nearly a year after a controversial regulatory decision about Islamic lender Bank Asya, shareholders are now under pressure to allow the sale of the bank.

In a phone interview with Today's Zaman on Sunday, Süleyman Taşbaş, a lawyer representing the majority of shareholders, said regulators have been using intimidation to try and get shareholders' consent to sell the bank.

“The current bank management is threatening shareholders, saying their personal properties will be at risk if they fail to give their consent,” Taşbaş said.

Three months after the Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency (BDDK) assigned on Feb. 3 an interim board to the bank because of an alleged lack of transparency, the watchdog handed over management control of the lender to the Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF). Both moves were perceived by many as steps taken to add to protracted government pressure on the faith-based Hizmet movement, also known as the Gülen movement, which has been subjected to a government witch hunt for the last three years.

Bank Asya is Turkey's largest Islamic lender and was founded by individuals inspired by the teachings of Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has accused the Hizmet movement of engineering a coup against the government; however, the movement has denied all the allegations.

The pressure to sell the bank is baseless given that the actions of the past two years regarding its management lack judicial foundation, Taşbaş said.

“When they took over the management they said 63 percent of the shareholders had failed to submit documents required for transparency. Having sent documents for 92 percent of the shareholders, we have demanded to have management control returned,” Taşbaş added.

Underlining that shareholders have filed as many as 500 administrative lawsuits against the takeover decision, Taşbaş said they hope the judicial process will work in favor of the shareholders.

Published on Sunday's Zaman, 20 December 2015, Sunday