The Turkish government’s seizure of independent media companies is to be challenged in two international cases on the grounds that the multi-billion expropriations breach investment treaties involving Britain and other EU states.
The UK-related claim, worth more than $5bn (£3.8bn), is aimed at overturning what are alleged to be politically motivated confiscations by the regime of Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Both are being taken to the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) in Washington.
The latest case has been brought by Ipek Investment Ltd (IIL), a British company headed by a Turkish businessman, Hamdi Akin İpek, who lives in the UK.
His holding company used to control the Koza Group of companies in Turkey, including Bugün newspaper and Kanaltürk TV station, which were seized in 2016.
İpek believes he is unable to obtain justice inside Turkey and has therefore initiated action in a forum where Erdoğan’s regime will be subject to international judicial scrutiny.
The Koza Group consists of several Turkish companies that operate across various sectors, including mining, construction, aviation, agriculture, tourism and the media. Some of its media outlets have been shut down and their assets transferred to the Turkish government, the claim alleges.
Other companies are being run by trustees nominated by the government’s Savings Deposit Insurance Fund of Turkey. Tekin İpek, a director of the Koza Group and brother of Akin İpek, has been imprisoned in a Turkish jail for more than two years.
Bilateral investment treaties, such as the one between Turkey and the UK, provide investors with a means to seek redress for unfair treatment.
“IIL seeks compensation for illegal acts attributable to Turkey which expropriated, treated in a discriminatory fashion and otherwise failed to protect IIL’s investments in Turkey,” the company said.
Ipek Investment Ltd’s estimates damages to be in the range of $5bn to $6bn .
At the time Turkey alleged it carried out raids on the companies due to financial irregularities. The group was accused of having links to the Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen whom the Turkish government alleges was behind the 2016 failed coup.
More than 1,100 companies, according to one survey, have been transferred to Turkey’s Savings Deposit Insurance Fund, most of them following the failed coup.
Journalists on confiscated newspapers and TV stations have been arrested, replaced and jailed.
A spokesman for Ipek Investment Limited said: “IIL’s shareholding comprised a multibillion dollar business, which has been deliberately targeted and seized by the Erdoğan regime. The [Turkish] government has shown total disregard for property rights, human rights and all decency.”
They are claiming damages of at least €65m.
“If my client is successful and the tribunal awards damages, then Turkey has to pay the award. It’s a legal obligation. The Turkish government did not comment immediately.
The cases are expected to take several years before judgment is delivered.