Ziraat Bank refuses to provide information on $750 mln loan to pro-gov’t group

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Turkish state lender Ziraat Bank has refused to provide information on whether or not the pro-government Demirören Group has started to repay a $750 million loan it had taken out to purchase media outlets in 2018, citing “client privacy,” the Bold Medya news website reported on Friday.

In March 2018 the Demirören family, close to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, purchased media outlets owned by Turkey’s then-largest media group, Doğan, in one of the most severe blows press freedom has sustained since a failed coup in July 2016, following which the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government launched a massive crackdown on independent media outlets under the pretext of an anti-coup fight.

According to Bold Medya, Ali Haydar Hakverdi, a lawmaker from the Republican People’s Party (CHP), on April 11 submitted written questions to Ziraat Bank, asking if the Demirören Group had paid any installments on the loan in the past 24 months.

Hakverdi also asked whether the Turkish lira’s exchange rate — which was 4 to the US dollar in March 2018 and has dropped to 14.7 since then — was fixed for the loan and if any foreclosure proceedings had been launched against the pro-government group.

The state lender said in response that it wasn’t possible for them to share any information regarding Demirören’s 2018 loan due to “client privacy,” Bold Medya said.

The MP, who in 2020 had also posed written questions to the bank concerning the loan and whether or not the group had started to repay it, had received a similar answer back then, too.

Accusing Ziraat Bank of engaging in favoritism and hiding information from the public, Hakverdi said the state lender should disclose information on whether Demirören had started to repay the loan as soon as possible.

“If these funds are not repaid, legal action should be taken against the Demirören Group and those responsible for extending the loan,” the lawmaker added.

Notorious Turkish mob boss Sedat Peker in June 2021 spoke about the matter in a YouTube video, alleging that Demirören Group Chairman Yıldırım Demirören hadn’t repaid the $750 million loan he had taken out from Ziraat Bank prior to buying the Doğan Media Group outlets.

“He [Demirören] took out a $750 million loan and has failed to repay any of it. He didn’t even pay the interest, let alone the principal. … Ask Ziraat if Demirören repaid the loan. You people are the real owners of the Kanal D and CNN Türk TV stations and the Hürriyet and Milliyet dailies [purchased by Demirören],” Peker said.

Peker, the head of one of Turkey’s most powerful mafia groups who was once a staunch supporter of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, had set the country’s political agenda through videos he posted on YouTube in 2021, each of which reached over a million viewers on the first day of their release. The mafia boss, who lives in Dubai and is the subject of an outstanding warrant in Turkey, made shocking revelations about state-mafia relations, drug trafficking and murders implicating state officials.

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