Turkish Tycoon Ipek Vows Court Challenge Over Seized Companies

  • Ipek comments for first time since companies seized after coup
  • Koza founder says his companies have $20 billion of assets

Turkish tycoon Akin Ipek vowed a court challenge from self-imposed exile if the government in Ankara sells the assets it seized from him following a failed coup in July to oust President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In his first public comments since authorities confiscated 18 of his companies in September, Ipek said he built his Koza Ipek conglomerate by following the letter of the law. He said he’s prepared to sue in international court if the units are sold.

“If they show even one illegal dollar in any of my companies, I will give them everything for free,” Ipek, 53, said by e-mail late Thursday from London, to which he fled last year. “If they don’t, I’ll be obliged to use my international arbitration right -- and that will be a headache for everybody.”

Ipek left Turkey amid a widening probe into suspected sources of funding for the outlawed Gulen Movement, which Erdogan blames for the botched putsch. The secretive group, founded by a Islamic cleric who was once an Erdogan ally and now lives in Pennsylvania, was declared a terrorist organization in July. More than 110,000 people have been either jailed or purged from the army, police and other public payrolls.

The terrorist designation allows the government to charge people or entities that contribute money to the Gulen Movement with aiding and abetting terrorism. Ipek was added to Turkey’s “Most Wanted” list last month for that reason, though he denies any wrongdoing.

The government placed Ipek’s companies, including three publicly traded mining and energy units that were once worth a combined $5.8 billion, under external management last year and formally seized them in early September, transferring control to the Savings & Deposit Insurance Fund, or TMSF.

These companies are among 527 that have been confiscated so far, Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli told parliament this week. The fate of these shares will depend on the ongoing criminal investigations -- if a terrorism link is established, then they’ll be sold, but if not, they’ll be returned to their original owners, he said.

“I am waiting patiently for this investigation to be finalized,” Ipek said.

A TMSF official put the total value of seized assets at about 30 billion liras ($10 billion) and said the agency is still working on mechanisms for disposing of whatever it ends up with. But Ipek said his companies alone have more than $20 billion of assets between them. The three that are listed in Istanbul, Koza Altin, Ipek Dogal and Koza Anadolu Metal, are collectively worth $1.24 billion, less than a quarter of their value four years ago.

Ipek said he’s being punished without due process.

“All my companies have been investigated by all government institutions since the beginning,” Ipek said. “And in addition to those investigations, the Ankara prosecutor started a criminal investigation in 2014. Trustees were appointed in 2015. Now we are at the end of 2016 and there still hasn’t been a trial.”

— With assistance by Taylan Bilgic, and Ercan Ersoy

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