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The agency charged with cleaning up debts after Turkey’s 2001 financial crisis has seized control of the country’s second-largest media group, saying it was “misled” by the group’s owners.
The Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF), a state body that has taken over many failed banks and sold them off piecemeal to repay debts, took control of Sabah, one of Turkey’s largest-circulation newspapers, and ATV, its sister television station late on Sunday.
It was the second time the TMSF had taken control of the assets. They were seized from Dinc Bilgin, their previous owner, in 2000, after a bank in his business empire collapsed owing more than $800m. They were then sold to Turgay Ciner, another businessman, in 2005 for $433m.
The TMSF said on Sunday that it had recently discovered “secret agreements” between Mr Bilgin and Mr Ciner that rendered the 2005 sale invalid. “It was documented that […] Dinc Bilgin and Turgay Ciner acted together […] and misled the Fund by fraudulent transactions,” the Fund said in a statement.
The TMSF’s most high-profile action was in 2004, when it seized the sprawling business empire of the Uzan family. It is now selling the assets and paying down some of the billions of dollars in bad debts that were both a cause and a consequence of Turkey’s 2001 financial crisis, which required a devaluation of the lira and a rescue package by the International Monetary Fund.
Analysts said on Monday it was likely that Sabah and ATV would be resold at a later date and could attract international interest. Turkey’s media market is opening up to foreign investment, and the government is keen to bring in more diverse ownership.