A new trial on the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), the mastermind of July 15, 2016 coup attempt, is scheduled to start in April after prosecutors disclosed a new indictment on its financial arm Bank Asya.
Bank Asya was a major lender associated with the group before it was handed over to a state-run fund managing assets seized from criminals in 2015. It has long been at the center of accusations that it was used by FETÖ members for money laundering. A large number of suspects in FETÖ investigations have accounts in the bank and several acknowledged that they deposited money in the bank to support the terrorist group.
Prosecutors in Istanbul, where Bank Asya's headquarters was located, asked for prison terms up to 22 years for 33 suspects, including the lender's former general manager and top executives for membership of a terrorist group and running a terrorist group. Most of the suspects have already fled abroad amid escalated crackdown on the terrorist group while some remain jailed for links to FETÖ.
The indictment says the bank served as the center of FETÖ's "financial arm" and was used for criminal revenues and money laundering. Though he was never listed as an official board member, Fetullah Gülen, the U.S.-based fugitive leader of the terrorist group, effectively ran the lender after 2011, according to the indictment. "The group founded the bank primarily to launder money and coordinating money flow for its activities," the prosecutors say. The year 2011 was when the terrorist group - which long disguised itself as a charity movement - actively used the bank for criminal activities, according to the prosecutors. Starting from that year, the group was involved in a string of irregularities, some amounting to crime, the indictment says. It started handing high loans to companies linked to FETÖ and hid suspicious loans to individuals and companies from the authorities.
The terrorist group has used Bank Asya to deposit "donations" - money it extorted by blackmail and donations to its charities that were used to finance group's criminal activities rather than a genuine charity purpose.
The indictment also includes a 2013 phone conversation between an unnamed suspect and Fetullah Gülen who instructs him to direct the group's members to deposit their money in the bank. In 2013, FETÖ made its first move to seize power in Turkey. Through its infiltrators in the judiciary and law enforcement, it launched two operations in December 2013, detaining people close to the government under the guise of an anti-graft probe. Soon, Turkey officially designated it as a national threat, short of a terrorist group, though the group's members operated relatively openly for a while. Then, in 2016, the group used its infiltrators in the military to launch another attempt to seize power.
In the July 15, 2016 coup bid, 249 people were killed across Turkey by putschists though FETÖ failed to seize power again. According to the indictment, an unusual surge of new accounts was detected in Bank Asya in January 2014. This was the time when prominent Gülenists urged fellow members to financially endorse the group when Bank Asya faced a probe over its potentially criminal activities and experienced drops in its profits. An email by a FETÖ member sent to Bank Asya executives, which was included in the indictment, says the group is mobilized "to give all to the bank," noting that people "will sell their cars and houses and receive loans from other banks" to support the failing lender.
Bank Asya executives are also accused of using accounts of unsuspecting customers for money laundering.
FETÖ faces almost daily operations by Turkish authorities since the 2016 coup attempt. Yesterday, 55 people including former police chiefs and officers were detained in anti-FETÖ operations in nine cities. Four police chiefs earlier dismissed for suspected FETÖ links were among those detained. Media outlets reported that the suspects were users of Bylock, an encrypted messaging app exclusively used - and believed to be developed - by FETÖ to relay instructions on criminal activities. Operations were underway to capture seven other suspects at large.