Aydın Doğan slams claims in POAŞ case as 'baseless'
ISTANBULThe first hearing of the Petrol Ofisi (POAŞ) case, which has 47 suspects including Doğan Holding Honorary Chairman Aydın Doğan and İş Bank Executive Board Chairman Ersin Özince, was held on July 13 in Istanbul.
Doğan Holding and İş Bank were partners in POAŞ, an oil retailer now owned by Austrian OMV, in the past.
In the hearing, the Istanbul First Heavy Penal Court noted that there was already a case at a Mersin court on the same subject and decided to ask Mersin First Heavy Penal Court’s opinion on the merging of the two cases.
The cases will be merged either in Mersin or Istanbul, and the Supreme Court of Appeals will have the final say if the two courts cannot agree on merging the cases.
Twenty-seven suspects, including Doğan and Özince, attended the first hearing. The defendant’s lawyers said at the hearing that it was against the law for the suspects to be tried in two separate cases on the same subject and asked for the case to be heard in Mersin, where some of the suspects have already given their testimonies.
At the end of the hearing, the court accepted the Customs and Trade Ministry’s request to be a party to the case, saying the ministry has the possibility of being harmed by the crime.
The court also said the Mersin court rejected the demand to merge the two cases in Istanbul following a demand on April 28. The trial has been adjourned until Nov. 23 for the ruling on the merge demand.
In the indictment, Doğan Holding, Petrol Ofisi, and İş Bank executives are accused of understating the value of imported fuel between 2001 and 2007 with the purpose of tax evasion. In a statement on March 27, Doğan Holding officials said “the state imposes zero customs tax on fuel product imports regardless of their origin. Therefore, avoiding a non-existent tax is out of the question.”
The defendants are accused of not declaring a total of $6 million in Value Added Tax (VAT) and hence avoiding a total tax of $6.3 million. Doğan Holding also said in the statement that Petrol Ofisi imported fuel worth $6.3 billion from 2001 to 2007 and paid $1.1 billion VAT for this.
Speaking to the Doğan News Agency after the hearing, Aydın Doğan said the case had no “legal basis.”
“This case lacks reason and consideration, as it has no legal basis,” he said.
“These allegations were first handled by the commission examining oil distribution companies which was formed in the Turkish Parliament between 2001 and 2005. The commission concluded that there was no process against the law in Petrol Ofisi in the extremely detailed and extensive report that it prepared after five years of work. I personally wasn’t in the management of this company, so I didn’t take any legal or administrative responsibility,” he added.
“I also want to draw attention to an important point: An investigation was carried out by the Mersin Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office regarding the same allegations and a complaint was filed within this framework in 2014. I wasn’t named as a suspect in the indictment of this case and my name didn’t come up even once in that trial process, which has been ongoing for two years. Despite this, the prosecutor’s office aimed to harm my reputation and create a stir in the public by making me a part of this indictment,” Doğan also said.
“What’s more, the issue is not even about whether I was in the management of this company or not. I believe with all my heart that all of our dear friends, who were in the management of Petrol Ofisi in the past and who appeared in the court today as suspects, are innocent. I believe they have not conducted any procedures against the law,” he added.