Date posted: January 12, 2014
GÜNAY HİLAL AYGÜN
Faced with massive corruption scandals that have shaken the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has moved to silence media for its critical coverage of graft, money laundering, influence peddling, tender-rigging and other crimes allegedly committed by senior members of the government and businesspeople close to Erdoğan.
The sinister plan apparently cooked up by the government to intimidate the Hizmet (Gülen) movement has also included an operation targeting Bank Asya, a bank owned mostly by movement sympathizers, with the hope that the pro-Gülen media will be forced to stay silent on corruption. The clampdown on the bank first started with a defamation campaign run by pro-government media outlets and was later followed by a claim by Interior Minister Efkan Ala, who asserted that the bank had made extraordinary profits on the foreign currency market. All these allegations were refuted by the bank, which published their currency transactions; the central bank has confirmed that there has been no wrongdoing by the bank.
The government-orchestrated campaign even extended to a point where the AK Party government instructed all government agencies and state enterprises that have an account with the bank to withdraw their deposits overnight, in order to provoke a run on the bank. In the meantime, it was rumored that the government put pressure on regulators at the Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency (BDDK) to seize the bank, whose balance sheet was dealt a blow. Yet the bank quickly recovered from the shakeup thanks to the campaigning of citizens and new investors who rushed to aid the bank with fresh capital. The regulators have been left with no justification to seize the bank, a move that was also opposed by economy czar Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan.
Taraf columnist and Ankara Bureau Chief Hüseyin Özay described the Erdoğan government’s plan as a “lynching campaign saying that it was meant to be like firing a bullet at the Turkish economy. “Last week, the Turkish banking system barely escaped a ‘forced bankruptcy operation’ that presented a critical risk for the system,” he wrote in his column. With the fresh injection of cash to the bank compensating well above the amount of money withdrawn from the bank under pressure from the government, Özay said, “Thus the banking industry has averted a major earthquake.” He also criticized government agencies for withdrawing their deposits because that abrupt move meant they had to forfeit a huge profit on the deposits because of early withdrawal.
Turan Bozkurt, business editor and columnist at Zaman, slammed the BDDK for being silent against the slanderous attacks targeting Bank Asya by the pro-government media, saying the watchdog agency should have warned the media, especially in light of Banking Law No. 5411, which prohibits publication of defamatory articles. Bozkurt also revealed that businesspeople who do business with the bank have started getting calls from circles close to the government, asking them to withdraw their deposits from the bank. He said, “There are rumors that a list has been circulating around,” which includes clients’ data that, by law, cannot be handed over to anybody. Only the bank and regulators at the BDDK have access to the confidential data.
Source: Todays Zaman , January 12, 2014