A proposal for a parliamentary inquiry in Turkey into who sold massive amounts of foreign currency on 20 December, just before president Erdoğan announced the introduction of a Treasury-backed financial scheme to protect Turkish lira (TL) accounts against losses incurred by devaluation, was rejected in the Turkish parliament on Tuesday.
The inquiry, proposed by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) with the intention of investigating possible insider dealing that may have benefited a small number of big business owners, was rejected by the MPs for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its partner the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
The Turkish lira, which was at a historical low before Erdoğan’s announcement, rose in value against the US dollar and the euro by around 56% in the following four days, allowing those who had sold foreign currency funds before the announcement to earn billions.
After the rejection of the inquiry CHP MP Aykut Erdoğdu pointed out that it was of particular importance that Erdoğan had made his announcement after the markets were closed on 20 December, so that individuals were unable to make transactions in the currency market.
As the inquiry proposal was put to vote in the parliament, another CHP MP, Ali Mahir Başarır, claimed on a TV news channel that the Demirören Group and five other companies had sold 10 billion dollars while the dollar was worth 18 TL, and started buying again after it had fallen to 10.3 TL following Erdoğan’s announcement.
“Who sold and bought dollars?” Başarır asked. “Let me make something perfectly clear. The Demirören Group and five other companies sold huge amounts of dollars on 20 December. We also know for definite that they bought foreign currency funds back again in the following three or four days. I personally asked to speak with Ziraat Bank, Halk Bank and Vakıf Bank, but they refused to give any information. Yıldırım Demirören and the five companies sold dollars at 17-18 TL and bought again when it had fallen to 10.3 TL. This means that companies who sold 10 billion dollars have made them into around 16 billion dollars.”
In May 2018 the Demirören Group of companies bought the largest Turkish media group Hürriyet, reportedly with loans provided by the Ziraat Bank, in an operation that was the final step in bringing mainstream Turkish media under government control.