Turkey’s state-owned Halkbank General Manager Osman Aslan said on Sunday that the bank’s cheap dollar and euro selling on Friday night was a glitch in technical services and fixed in half an hour, after 1,763 customers made $4.6 million in transactions, the NTV news website reported.
The bank, run by Turkey’s sovereign wealth fund, offered dollars at 3.88 Turkish lira in late night trading on Friday before its website went offline. The US dollar had closed the week at 6.58 Turkish lira.
The glitch started at 22:01 local time and lasted until 22:39, Aslan said, adding that it was a first in the bank’s history.
The bank accounts of customers who made transactions from cheap dollars and euros were frozen immediately, Aslan said.
The event prompted heated discussions on social media. Some Twitter users accused the Turkish government of organizing the trades to covertly help indebted companies facing heavy repayments of foreign currency loans in September. Others said the bank had failed to prevent an apparent cyber-attack, pointing the finger at hacker groups.
Halkbank became a focus of controversy in Turkey after Mehmet Hakan Atilla, a deputy CEO of the bank, was arrested and tried in the United States for his alleged involvement in a scheme to evade US sanctions on Iran. Atilla is now in a Manhattan jail awaiting an appeal hearing, while Halkbank is the subject of a US Treasury investigation that could result in hefty fines.
Social media users also pointed to erroneous dollar buying and selling prices set by the Dutch ING bank late on Friday that lent credence to a cyber-attack taking place. ING, which hasn’t made a statement explaining the price discrepancies, was offering dollars at 4.88 Turkish lira at one point, clips published on Twitter showed.
(Turkish Minute with Stockholm Center for Freedom [SCF])