US Senator refutes fake press release targeting Kuveyt-Turk bank

RAGIP SOYLU @ragipsoylu
Published 28.11.2016 07:13
Updated 01.12.2016 15:52
emSabah Photo/em
Sabah Photo

The latest debates on fake news have a new angle, as an unknown group of people have purposefully leaked new allegations surrounding the Turkey-based bank Kuveyt-Turk.

A press release published on Nov. 19 by the PR News Channel claimed that U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the second most powerful Democrat in the Senate, would hold hearings to investigate two key banking institutions in Kuwait and whether they helped fund terrorism.

The press release read that Durbin lead the Senate Judiciary Committee, which would target Kuwait Finance House and its alleged subsidiary in Turkey, the Kuveyt-Turk participation bank.

A spokesman at Senator Durbin's office flatly denied the report and said it was completely false.

Meanwhile a representative for the PR News Channel said last Wednesday that the press release denied by Senator Durbin's office was sent to them by a group called "United Against Terror." Online records do not indicate the existence of such group and the PR News Channel refused to give the name of the contact person of the group per their protocol.

The fake report has surfaced amidst an ongoing court case in California against the two banks on the terror funding charges. The lawsuit was filed last summer by St. Francis Assisi, an association established by the plaintiff's lawyer Mogeeb Weiss one week prior to the submission of the complaint, allegedly representing the relatives of Assyrian Christians who suffered at the hands of Daesh in Syria and Iraq.

Kuveyt-Turk's lawyers dismissed the charges by saying the allegations have no merit because banks are not responsible for the allegations. Weiss claimed in his complaint that designated Nusra Front financier Hajjaj Fahd al-Ajmi has been collecting money for Daesh on social media by sharing the bank account numbers belonging to the same aid groups.

The complaint says these two banks must be held accountable for unspecified Assyrian Christians grievances at unspecified times and places.

"The claims are incoherent: At bottom, they are based on ISIS's [Daesh] conduct, but the allegations confuse support for the Nusra Front - a different entity - with support for ISIS. Moreover, even assuming that the defendant Hajjaj assisted ISIS, no facts are alleged that either bank had any knowledge or involvement in any activities of Hajjaj or ISIS," the lawyers for the defendants said in their motion against the complaint on Nov. 2, using a different acronym for Daesh.

Plaintiff St. Francis Assisi's lawyer Weiss has not responded to questions casted by Daily Sabah, inquiring how Mr. Weiss would explain the contradictions in the case such as a Nusra Front designated person allegedly collecting money for its arch-enemy Daesh.

The complaint said Hajjaj Fahd al-Ajmi instructed followers to make their donations to a Kuveyt-Turk account registered under the name of the Sham Islamic Committee Association (SIC) -- Şam İslami Heyeti Derneği in Turkish.

This is factually wrong because the complaint says the customer number for this account was 8695311 and Kuveyt-Turk's records show that this account does not belong to the SIC. It is registered under the name of another association, the Sham Humanitarian Foundation (SHF), or İnsani Şam Derneği.

Kuveyt-Turk lawyers shared a number of official documents with Daily Sabah that show the United Nations and UNICEF donated money to the SHF many times over the last few years and conducted joint humanitarian operations. Needless to say, the SHF is not a designated organization.

The court case has recently infuriated Ankara as well. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan last week said the allegations over Kuveyt-Turk and Kuwait Finance House were proof of Western double standards.

"The U.S. Congress has recently passed a legislation which allows 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia. This is ludicrous. How would you punish an entire country for this? Now the same scheme has been put in place for Kuveyt-Turk on the charges of aiding terrorist activities," Erdoğan said.

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