Former Ankara bank regulator sentenced over major scandal

ANKARA (AFP) – A Turkish court gave suspended jail sentences yesterday to the former head of the country’s banking watchdog and his deputy over a major banking scandal dating back to 2003, the Anatolia news agency reported. Engin Akcakoca, former president of the Banking Regulation and Supervision Board (BDDK), received a one-year suspended sentence for «negligence.» His then deputy, Teoman Kerman, received a two-year suspended prison term for «abuse of office.» They were found guilty of failing to take measures against the private Imar Bank after it was found to be selling non-existent treasury bonds to clients. Five other former BDDK officials were each given one-year suspended jail sentences for «negligence,» Anatolia reported. The judge said none of the defendants would actually be sent to prison because they did not have criminal records and he was convinced they would not repeat the offense. The authorities seized Imar in 2003 after it emerged that the bank had hidden the true amount of its deposits, sold non-existing treasury bonds and channeled funds into offshore accounts. Economy Minister Ali Babacan described the scandal at Imar, which was owned by one of Turkey’s richest business families, the Uzans, as a «theft of a size that may go down in world banking history.» Citing the Uzans’ reluctance to negotiate a repayment settlement, the authorities seized all their 219 companies in 2004 in a bid to recover 5.6 billion dollars to reimburse Imar account holders.