ISTANBUL, March 2 Mustafa Koc, chairman of
Turkey's biggest company Koc Holding, on Sunday
called on the government to calm financial markets worried about
a corruption inquiry and denied he has sought to undermine Prime
Minister Tayyip Erdogan.
In a rare interview, Koc also told Hurriyet newspaper that
in May 2013 he met with Fethullah Gulen, the U.S.-based Islamic
cleric whom Erdogan has accused of orchestrating the corruption
scandal, but that they did not discuss "political designs".
Since a Dec. 17 police operation, Erdogan has been battling
a series of allegations that he and members of his family and
senior government officials took bribes and engaged in other
The popular leader, whose party has been elected three times
since 2002, has accused Gulen's followers of concocting the
charges to sway voters ahead of local elections later this
"There is this perception out there and to act like there is
nothing or to call all of it complete lies does not seem right
to me," Koc said. "Markets have been tense since Dec. 17 (and)
would immediately respond positively to a reduction in this
tension. Trust needs to be rebuilt at once."
The lira currency has lost almost 9 percent of its value
against the dollar since Dec. 17 amid concerns about political
stability in the emerging market.
Koc Holding's interests range from energy to automotive to
consumer durables, and the conglomerate's output accounts for
almost 10 percent of the Turkish economy.
Erdogan has alluded to dissatisfaction with Koc Holding,
especially last year during anti-government demonstrations in
Istanbul, when protesters sought refuge from tear gas in a hotel
owned by the Koc family.
Koc told Hurriyet the hotel's operators were compelled to
assist injured people on humanitarian grounds and that they had
also helped exhausted police.
Conspiracy theories that Koc is collaborating with foreign
forces to topple Erdogan are "products of the imagination. We
have never been in a position to design politics. We have always
been impartial," said Koc, whose wealth is estimated at $1.2
billion by Forbes magazine.
The government launched a probe into the taxes of Koc
Holding energy firms in July.
In January Tupras, the refiner controlled by Koc
Holding, was fined 412 million lira ($187 million) by a
regulator for violating competition rules, just days after
recordings were leaked in which Gulen and his associates
discussed backing Tupras for overseas contracts.
Koc said he has not spoken with Erdogan in a year. "There is
serious disinformation between us and Ankara," he said.
He praised the reforms of the ruling AK Party for expanding
the Turkish economy, especially for the nearly $50 billion in
privatisations it has overseen.