Journalists Cem Küçük and Fuat Uğur, staunch supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, called on the government to seize all assets of people linked to the Gülen movement to pay off a fine the US Treasury is expected to impose on Turkish state lender Halkbank for evading Iran sanctions.
“If the US and the US judiciary fine Halkbank, the Turkish justice system and other institutions should seize all the assets of Fetö [a derogatory term used by the government for the Gülen movement] members. I am not talking about the assets that have already confiscated. All assets of other Fetö members should be seized. If the fine is paid, it should be paid by selling their assets,” Uğur said during a Thursday program on TGRT.
“Also from their salaries. You can cut a certain amount. If he is a teacher or doctor, let’s say, seize the salary. You can leave something for them to survive on,” Küçük said during the program.
Amid an ongoing witch-hunt targeting the faith-based Gülen movement following a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016, Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on Nov. 16 said eight holdings and 1,020 companies had been seized as part of operations against the movement.
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş said on July 18, 2017 that the government had seized 4,888 properties belonging to 966 companies from people allegedly linked to the Gülen movement.
The total value of seized properties is estimated to be over $11 billion.
The jury in the trial of Mehmet Hakan Atilla, an executive of Turkey’s Halkbank charged with participating in a scheme to evade US sanctions on Iran, in US federal court on Wednesday reached a verdict of guilty on five counts, including bank fraud and conspiracy, and not guilty on one count of money laundering.
Atilla and Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab and seven other people, including Turkey’s former economy minister and two additional Halkbank executives, were charged with engaging in transactions worth hundreds of millions of dollars for Iran’s government and Iranian entities from 2010 to 2015 in a scheme to evade US sanctions.
Only Zarrab and Atilla are currently in US custody after separately being arrested upon trying to enter the United States in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
Zarrab testified in New York federal court in early December that he had bribed Turkey’s former economy minister, Mehmet Zafer Çağlayan, in a billion-dollar scheme to smuggle gold for oil in violation of US sanctions on Iran.
Zarrab said that Turkey’s then-prime minister and current president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, personally authorized the involvement of Turkish banks in the scheme.
Zarrab also said he made payments to secure his release in February 2014 and that those payments were partly bribes.
The Turkish government seized the assets of Zarrab and his relatives following his testimony in the US court.