UPDATE 1-Turkey's Tupras fined $186 mln for abusing market position

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ISTANBUL, Jan 17 (Reuters) - Turkey’s competition regulator has fined Tupras, the country’s sole oil refiner, 412 million lira ($186 million) for abusing its dominant market position in pricing and contracts.

Tupras has the right to appeal the ruling at an administrative court, the Competition Board said in a statement on its website on Friday.

“As a result of an investigation, it was decided with a majority vote that Tupras abused its dominant market position in pricing and its contracts,” it said, without elaborating.

The board’s ruling had been due on Jan. 29. Its early release follows media reports this week of leaked recordings of conversations between a reclusive Turkish cleric and his associates about encouraging Tupras to seek overseas contracts.

That cleric, U.S.-based Fethullah Gulen, is engaged in a political battle with his erstwhile ally Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan over a corruption scandal that has implicated members of Erdogan’s inner circle, including family members.

Erdogan has accused Gulen’s followers, who have dominated the judiciary and police force, of using the graft probe to undermine his government after 11 years in power.

A spokeswoman at Tupras declined to comment. There was no indication in the Competition Board statement that the fine was connected to the corruption scandal.

Tupras is owned by Koc Holding, Turkey’s biggest company which is controlled by one of the country’s most prominent business dynasties.

The government has accused the family of sympathising with protesters during anti-government unrest.

Tupras and two other Koc energy companies faced a tax probe last summer. Government officials denied there was any connection between the tax probe and the protests. (Reporting by Ayla Jean Yackley; Editing by Mark Potter)