Gulen’s cult, described as “civil movement based on tolerance, interfaith and intercultural dialogue”, was also engaged in finance through a bank, a number of affiliated insurance companies and a large business federation.
Gulenists’ engagement in finance started with Bank Asya on 24 October 1996 in Istanbul. It had 182 branches, 2 national and 1,300 foreign correspondent banks in addition to the head office units as of 2011. A probe into the bank revealed that the bank did not have a transparent partnership structure open enough to allow effective regulation. Therefore the partnership rights were transferred to the Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF) in mid 2015. The decision was made based on paragraph five of Article 18 of Banking Code no. 5411 which states that shareholders who own qualified shares should meet the requirements sought for founders, and if such shareholders can no longer meet these requirements, they will lose their shareholding rights except for their right to receive equities. Bank Asya had required 185 of its real and judicial shareholders to submit information and documents to prove that they meet the requirements applied for founders, but only 63 out of 185 shareholders presented the requested documents. One of the shareholders, a businessman called Hasan Sayin, explained that he was defrauded by Gulenists who used the funds for other purposes. He said in his testimony that a total of 30 million TL ($ 9.066 million) he transferred to a school in the United States was intended for the prosperity of his daughter and other female students studying there.
Further investigations into Banks Asya’s activities revealed that the bank engaged in money laundering for the Gulenist cult, and opened accounts in the name of children as young as 2-years-old to stash tens of millions of liras of the cult’s money. The accounts opened for 30 children aged between 2 to 8 contained more than 26 million TL ($ 8.235 million). On 22 July 2016, Bank Asya’s banking permission was cancelled by the Banking Regulation and Supervision Board (BDDK) in Turkey.
Bank Asya had subsidiaries including pension and insurance companies: Asya Pension Inc., Asya Investment Inc., Tuna Investment Inc., Isik Insurance Inc., Nil Real Estate and Management Inc, Asya Fin Insurance Inc, Asya Card Technology Inc.
The Turkish Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists (TUSKON), an employers’ organization, was formed in 2005 by seven business federations, comprising mostly small-to-medium sized businesses. TUSKON engaged in lobbying all decision makers at the local, regional, national and global levels. It claimed to be the largest business organization with 34,300 members representing 1,000 companies and with a presence in Turkey’s 81 provinces. Bank Asya was a member of TUSKON. It was closed following the coup attempt in July 2016. Its president Rizanur Meral fled abroad in July 2016.
Probes into TUSKON revealed that it funded dozens of trips to Turkey for European parliamentarians. British politician Sir Graham Watson, the President of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party (ALDE), had also participated in Gulenist-funded trips.TUSKON’s EU Director Serdar Yesilyurt confessed to lobbying against Turkey’s EU accession. He said that they particularly targeted Belgian MEPs who opposed Turkey’s EU accession. He added that they had “curried favour” with the center-right EPP which is the largest group in the European Parliament.
Marietje Schaake, a Dutch liberal MEP, said the group made a strong lobby effort, but hadn’t always been transparent when promoting their ideas.
TUSKON registered in Belgium in 8 December 2015 as a non-profit organization under the name TUSKON EU. On 25 April 2016, it moved to an address near a number of EU institutions.