Fired Turkish Air CFO Sues Carrier as Link to Gulen Denied

  • Kilic seeks job back or damages, clarification of ouster
  • Former executive cites lack of ‘formal investigation’

Former Turkish Airlines Chief Financial Officer Coskun Kilic said he’s suing to be reinstated to the job following a “completely unfair” mass firing at the carrier last month that was part of a government purge against alleged coup plotters.

The lawsuit, which Kilic said he filed in an Istanbul administrative court last week, demands that the state-controlled carrier either rehire him or pay compensation and clarify that the reason for the sacking wasn’t related to the purge of employees allegedly tied to U.S.-based imam Fethullah Gulen, according to a copy he provided to Bloomberg on Monday. The court couldn’t be reached for comment.

Authorities say that Gulen’s followers in the Turkish military plotted the attempt against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on July 15, and tens of thousands of people have been removed from jobs in government or state-regulated industries. While Turkish Airlines, also known as Turk Hava Yollari AO, didn’t explain Kilic’s departure when it replaced him, it announced the move at the same time as the dismissal of 211 employees that it said have links to a movement that Gulen leads.

“Turkish Airlines’ decision to fire us without showing a real reason is damaging people’s reputation, because we were portrayed as if we are linked with that terror organization,” Kilic said in a telephone interview on Monday. Most of the sacked ones are from finance and accounting departments including senior executives, he said.

Yahya Ustun, a spokesman at the carrier, declined to comment Monday on Kilic’s remarks.

Turkish Airlines shares fell as much as 5 percent to 5.31 liras in Istanbul. The company is scheduled to announce second-quarter earnings on Aug. 19.

Arranging Finances

Turkish Airlines replaced Kilic with Murat Seker, head of investor relations and financial institutions at state-owned TC Ziraat Bankasi AS, Turkey’s largest lender. Kilic had been the CFO of the carrier since 2006 and helped arrange financing of more than $15 billion of aircraft purchases, including a $3 billion facility earlier this year and its debut enhanced equipment trust certificates, or EETCs, in 2015.

By firing people in key financial positions, “you are destroying the corporate memory of the company by eliminating a team that brought in so much financing to the company for the company’s future growth,” Kilic said.

The airline has plans to grow its fleet to more than 430 aircraft in 2022 from about 300 at the start of this year, according to its website.

Text Message

Kilic said the company sent him a text message telling him of his dismissal and citing “operational necessities” on July 24. “The decision was given although there had been no formal accusation, investigation, judicial decision or negative report about and against us by any authority previously,” he said.

More than 80,000 people have been suspended from office or sacked across Turkey since the coup plot, according to Hurriyet newspaper. The purge has focused on institutions including the military and police, as well as state-owned businesses including Turk Telekomunikasyon AS, the national landline phone company.

Enis Feyzioglu, who was head of aircraft and corporate finance at Turkish Airlines before his contract was terminated on July 24, said he also opened a case at the Istanbul court. In a statement on Tuesday he cited his “wrongful discharge to the court and a criminal complaint with the prosecutor against Turkish Airlines.”

“I have suffered due to the unlawful termination of my contract as well as the misleading press release by Turkish Airlines at the time which put me in a guilty position in front of the public and industry globally, in the absence of any legal judgement, formal or informal investigation, accusation and/or any fair reason or evidence,” he said.

The contracts of the management team working under the CFO that secured the financing of more than 250 aircraft from Boeing Co. and Airbus Group SE were all simultaneously terminated on the same date, he said.

The government owns 49 percent of Turkish Airlines, which employs more than 16,000 people, and has a controlling vote on the board.

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