Turkey reacts to banker’s arrest in the US

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu

The Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlut Cavusoglu said that he will ask US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson about the arrest of Turkish state-run Halkbank’s Deputy General Manager Mehmet Hakan Atilla in New York, when the two meet in Ankara on Thursday.

“Our consulate in New York and our embassy is closely following the situation… The court hasn’t made any decisions yet and has postponed the hearing until 10 April. We too are following the situation very closely and it looks like this was based on the indictment prepared by the now discharged Prosecutor Bharara who had close links to FETO [abbreviation of government-used term ‘Fethullah Gulenist Terrorist Organisation],” said Cavusoglu in an interview on Turkish state television TRT.

“Our bank and relevant state bodies are conducting the necessary work on the subject and information will be shared with the public when it is obtained,” announced Halkbank who confirmed the arrest of its deputy general manager in a statement made early on Wednesday.

Pro-governmet press in Turkey was quick to announce the arrest as part of a conspiracy against the Turkish government. “A Scandalous Arrest” was the headline used by pro-government Yeni Safak; “The US judiciary who is trying to revive FETO’s 17-25 December conspiracy has made a scandalous decision,” the newspaper said in its report, referring to a 2013 investigation in Turkey involving Reza Zarrab and four ministers from then Prime Minister Erdogan’s cabinet as well as the former chief executive manager of Halkbank.

The pro-government daily Star took one step further and ran the headline “FETO’s USA Branch on Duty: Halkbank’s Deputy General Manager arrested,” directly accusing the US prosecutors conducting the investigation as members of Fethullah Gulen’s ‘terrorist organisation’.

Halkbank’s shares, Turkey’s fifth-largest lender by assets plummeted on Wednesday falling as much as 16% – after a 5% rise on its shares on Tuesday – making it the biggest one-day loss since the stock was opened in 2007.