ANKARA/ISTANBUL (Reuters) - An Istanbul prosecutor has submitted an indictment accusing two businessmen of involvement in a fuel-smuggling ring, newspapers close to the government said on Thursday.
If confirmed, the indictments would be the latest move against the parent firm of Turkey’s biggest media group. The Istanbul prosecutor could not be reached for comment.
According to pro-government daily Aksam, the prosecutor is seeking a 23-year jail sentence for Aydin Dogan. His Dogan Holding owns titles including leading newspaper Hurriyet, and broadcaster CNN Turk and mainstream television channel Kanal D.
Ersin Ozince, chairman of Isbank, Turkey’s largest listed lender, is accused of involvement in financing the smuggling ring between 2001 and 2007, the newspaper said. Isbank is 28 percent owned by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).
Dogan Holding said the allegations were unfounded. Isbank also said the allegations were false, adding it had not received any official notification about the issue.
“The allegations against our bank’s chairman of the board ... mentioned in the news have no legal grounds and do not reflect the truth,” Isbank said in a statement to the Istanbul stock exchange.
President Tayyip Erdogan has previously criticized Aydin Dogan. Last year Erdogan called him a “coup lover” and described columnists at his media business as charlatans.
The fuel-smuggling allegations refer back to 2001-2007, when Dogan Holding and Isbank were stakeholders in fuel distributor Petrol Ofisi, prior to its acquisition by Austrian company OMV in 2010.
At 1434 GMT Dogan Holding’s shares were down 3.6 percent, lagging behind Istanbul’s main share index, which rose more than 2 percent. Isbank shares were up 1.05 percent.
Turkey’s opposition media have faced a difficult few months.
Authorities seized control this month of the country’s largest newspaper, Zaman. Erdogan has meanwhile warned the constitutional court over a ruling that led to the release of two detained journalists from opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet.
Turkey ranked 149 out of 180 countries in a survey of global press freedom by Reporters Without Borders last year.
Additional reporting by Asli Kandemir, Daren Butler and Ceyda Caglayan, Editing by David Dolan and Janet McBride