Erdogan calls US case against banker ‘political coup attempt’

Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Updated 09 January 2018

Erdogan calls US case against banker ‘political coup attempt’

ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday condemned a US sanctions-busting case against a Turkish bank executive as a “political coup attempt” and a joint effort by the CIA and FBI to undermine Ankara.
A US jury last week convicted the executive of Turkey’s majority state-owned Halkbank of evading Iran sanctions, capping a trial that has strained relations between the NATO allies.
Erdogan, speaking to members of his ruling AK Party in the Parliament, said the CIA, the FBI and the network of the US-based cleric Turkey blames for a 2016 coup were together using the case to undermine Ankara.
“Those who could not succeed in the (military) coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, (2016) are now searching for a different attempt in our country,” he said.
Bloomberg quoted Deputy Prime Minister Recep Akdag as saying the evidence used in the court proceedings “was fabricated” by supporters of Fethullah Gulen.
According to the report in Bloomberg, there is concern that Atilla’s conviction will prompt US authorities to penalize Turkey or its banks — especially since the jury found that the scheme was devised by executives at the state-run bank, formally known as Turkiye Halk Bankasi AS.
“The US has given no indication of that so far. Bekir Bozdag, the Turkish government’s spokesman, has fueled concerns by repeatedly saying that the case is an attempt to cripple Turkey’s economy through the imposition of sanctions,” the report added.
Halkbank is Turkey’s biggest listed state bank, with assets of 280 billion liras ($74 billion), and its success is viewed by the government as a national cause. The bank’s traditional client base consists mainly of small businesses, and with its options for offshore financing hampered by the trial.
The US case against Atilla was based on the testimony of the gold trader Zarrab, who cooperated with US prosecutors and pleaded guilty to charges of leading a scheme to evade US sanctions against Iran.
In his testimony, Zarrab implicated top Turkish politicians.
The bank has denied any wrongdoing and said its transactions were in line with local and international regulations.
The court decision is unlikely to damage Erdogan or his government at home, said Wolfango Piccoli of Teneo Intelligence, a London-based consultancy.
“Domestically, I don’t believe it will make any difference at all...” Piccoli said. “I think it is much more important in terms of the bilateral relations with the United States. This is a relationship that has been difficult for some time.”
Less clear was the potential fall-out for the banking sector, with some analysts seeing the possibility that one or more Turkish lenders could be hit by fines over the case.
“The whole thing is really about what the consequences will be for the relationship between Turkey and the US,” said Paul Fage of TD Securities in London.
Turkey has said it will take any necessary measures to protect its banks from the potential impact of the case.


Lebanese celebrities join Beirut protests as anger rises over tax reforms

Updated 19 October 2019

Lebanese celebrities join Beirut protests as anger rises over tax reforms

  • A video emerged on social media showing actress Nadine Al-Rassi preparing to set fire to a car tire in downtown Beirut
  • In a series of tweets, Lebanese recording artist Elissa, who is abroad, supported the protesters’ demands

BEIRUT: Lebanese celebrities joined thousands of protesters on the streets of Beirut on Saturday to voice their anger at the country’s ruling elite.
Singers, actors and playwrights were among a host of high-profile artists who backed demands for action over government corruption and to counter Lebanon’s spiralling economic crisis.
Beirut has been shrouded in smoke for three days following widespread protests and rioting over government tax plans.
A video emerged on social media showing actress Nadine Al-Rassi preparing to set fire to a car tire in downtown Beirut and crying inconsolably about her financial state.
The actress, wearing jeans and her face blackened, told protesters: “I am Nadine Al-Rassi. I was hungry for seven days. I have debts. Banque du Liban (Lebanon’s central bank) seized my house and I am unable to rent a home. Corrupt people should be held responsible.”


In a series of tweets, Lebanese recording artist Elissa, who is abroad, supported the protesters’ demands, saying: “This is the first time I wish I were in Lebanon. My heart is with you.”
In another tweet, the high-profile singer, one of the Middle East’s best-selling performers, said: “I proudly follow the news of Beirut and its citizens ... who are demanding a decent life. It is time for people to get back their dignity.”
Meanwhile, singer and composer Ragheb Alama expressed his dismay at a Council of Ministers plan to impose a daily fee on WhatsApp calls.
“The people’s misfortunes are not funny. Why don’t you tax the polluted air people breathe? It is a great idea that brings money to your fathers’ treasury, too,” he wrote.
Alama accused the Parliament of responsibility for the country’s dire economy: “Why do deputies receive money, privileges and overheads, and what have they done? They covered up for looting and stealing for decades. They are responsible for destroying the economy and the country.”
Nancy Ajram, one of the Arab world’s most popular singers, wrote on Twitter: “My heart goes out to my country every moment and with every heartbeat. We are a people who deserves to live and it is our right to live with dignity. May God protect Lebanon.”
Singer and actress Haifa Wehbe tweeted: “There is nothing better than the Lebanese people when they stand in unity and under one slogan, without any political affiliation. We are all for our country.”
Comedian and prime-time TV host Hisham Haddad was among celebrities who joined protesters at Riad El-Solh Square, near the Prime Minister’s office, site of the biggest centralized demonstrations.
Actress Maguy Bou Ghosn, singer Moeen Shreif, actors Abdo Chahine, Badih Abou Chakra and Junaid Zeineldine, playwright Ziad Itani and musician Ziyad Sahhab also joined the protests.
Actor Wissam Hanna called on Twitter for protesters to close the Beirut Airport road to stop corrupt officials fleeing the country.
“I am all for closing down the airport road to stop thieves from fleeing. I am all for recovering stolen funds. Lebanon rises, revolts and it is time to hold them accountable,” he wrote.
Actress Gretta Aoun said: “We have to take to the streets. They must know the extent of our pain.”