Turkey’s Opposition Accuses Treasury of Seizing Isbank Dividends

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Turkey’s main opposition party accused the government of seizing accumulated dividends worth about 3.7 billion liras ($435 million) paid by Turkiye Is Bankasi AS.

The payouts were meant for the Turkish Language Association and the Turkish History Association and were shifted to a single Treasury account, said Murat Emir, a lawmaker for the Republican People’s Party, or CHP.

The CHP owns a 28% stake in the country’s second-largest bank after Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, bequeathed the shares to the party. His will stipulated that dividends go to the two foundations.

“Take your hands off Ataturk’s will,” the CHP’s Emir said. “Those are autonomous institutions.”

The dividends aren’t being taken away from the institutions, Culture and Tourism Minister Mehmet Ersoy told lawmakers on Monday. They’re being shifted to a single account, and the Treasury is working on a “legal arrangement” on the issue, he said, without giving further details.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has made several attempts at grabbing the opposition party’s stake, accusing the CHP of exploiting the memory of Ataturk.

Turkish banks last paid full-year dividends in 2017, after which the banking regulator prevented them from doing so in an effort to strengthen capital buffers in the banking system.

The Treasury and the two institutions declined to comment when contacted by Bloomberg on Monday and Tuesday.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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