49 former Bank Asya shareholders detained over Gülen links

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Police on Wednesday detained 49 former shareholders of the now-closed Islamic lender Bank Asya out of 68 for whom warrants were issued over alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement, the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) reported.

The operation, spanning nine provinces, was initiated by a prosecutor’s office investigating former shareholders who had authority to elect the executive board and make trade-related and administrative decisions. Two of the shareholders are reported to be abroad.
The bank was recently declared bankrupt by a regulatory body.

The Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF) had taken over management of Bank Asya and took control of 63 percent of its privileged shares, enough to name the board, in February 2015. New board members, a general manager and deputy general managers were immediately appointed.

In the aftermath of a coup attempt on July 15, 2016, the government closed down Bank Asya on the grounds that it was linked to the Gülen movement, accused by the government of masterminding the putsch.

The movement denies any involvement in the failed coup.

Before the government seizure Bank Asya was one of three banks with the highest liquidity in Turkey. The government took over the bank on Feb. 4, 2015, contrary to strict statutory banking regulations against such a drastic move.

Bank Asya’s banking license was cancelled on July 22, 2016 — seven days after the coup attempt — by Turkey’s Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency (BDDK). The banking watchdog had ruled for the complete takeover of all shares of the Islamic lender by the TMSF in May 2015.

The bank, which had 210 branches, 5,000 employees and around 1.5 million clients, was founded on Oct. 24, 1996 upon formal approval from regulators. It has operated under the supervision of independent regulatory bodies in Turkey that were responsible for overseeing the banking sector. It was a popular bank.

In the wake of the coup attempt in July 2016 having an account at Bank Asya was presented by prosecutors as evidence of membership in a so-called “terrorist organization.”

Turkey survived a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. Turkey’s Interior Minister announced on December 12, 2017 that 55,665  people have been arrested. Previously, on December 13, 2017, The Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

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