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26 economists, journalists face complaints due to comments about exchange rate

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Turkey’s Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency (BDDK) has filed criminal complaints against 26 people including two former central bank governors, economists and journalists due to their comments about exchange rate movement, the watchdog announced from its Twitter account on Monday.

The BDDK said it had filed criminal complaints against the 26 people due to posts on social media that aim to “manipulate exchange rate movement.” The watchdog said it filed the complaints based on the 74th Article of the country’s Banking Law, which prohibits anyone from deliberately causing a bank to lose prestige, reputation or assets or spread baseless news about it.

Former central bank governors Rüşdü Saraçoğlu and Durmuş Yılmaz, who is also the İYİ (Good) Party deputy chairman, journalists Alican Uludağ, Erk Acarer, Emin Çapa and Mustafa Sönmez, and economists Selçuk Geçer and Güldem Atabay are among the 26 people facing the complaints.

Earlier on Monday, the BDDK said it had filed complaints against only five economists, but it released a list with more people in the evening.

Journalist Sönmez, angered by the BDDK’s actions, said he would file a complaint against the BDDK because it was not the people on the list who were involved in manipulation but President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his cronies.

“Billions were stolen. There is little time left before a real trial,” Sönmez said, implying that the people who caused the state to sustain financial losses will stand trial for their actions.

Former central bank governor Yılmaz has been directly targeted by Erdoğan due to his criticism of a series of measures taken by Erdoğan’s government to prevent further dollarization and encourage savings in lira.

According to the plan announced last week, the government will make up for losses incurred by holders of lira deposits should the lira’s declines against hard currencies exceed interest rates promised by banks.

Economists and opposition politicians criticized Erdoğan’s new plan, with many saying that the measures amounted to an indirect interest rate hike and that the Turkish lira would continue surging in spite of them. Yılmaz was one of the critics, which made him a direct target of Erdoğan.

“This person has committed a crime, too. They [he and the others] will be held accountable for this. His membership in parliament may save him [from prosecution], but he will pay for it in damages,” said Erdoğan, referring to Yılmaz.

The BDDK released a written statement on Twitter last Tuesday saying it had observed that there were people attempting to “manipulate the positive course of exchange rate movements” through visual, print and social media.

“The necessary investigations into these people will be carried out, and [then] a criminal complaint will be made to the chief public prosecutor’s office. Our institution closely follows all such attempts [of manipulation],” the BDDK added.

Turkey’s lira on Dec. 20 posted its biggest gain in decades, rebounding after soaring as much as 20 percent against the US dollar on the same day to a record low of 18.36. It traded at as strong as 11.09 in İstanbul on Tuesday morning, according to Bloomberg, which also said the two-day rally of the lira was the biggest since 1983.

Since the beginning of November, the lira has lost a third of its value versus the US dollar.

Under pressure from Erdoğan, Turkey’s technically independent central bank has utilized four rate cuts in a row to decrease its policy rate from 19 percent to 14 percent, sending the lira to historic lows.

In remarks to Halk TV on Monday, Çapa said the BDDK’s move was aimed at intimidating and silencing the economists.

“Leaving me aside, someone like Durmuş Yılmaz, who served in the top position at the central bank, is being discredited. This is unacceptable,” said Çapa, adding that he would continue to do his job as an economy reporter.

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