TÜSİAD warns against use of probes as ‘punishment’

TÜSİAD warns against use of probes as ‘punishment’

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
TÜSİAD warns against use of probes as ‘punishment’

Turkish Industrialists’ and Businessmen’s Association (TÜSİAD) Chairman Muharrem Yılmaz speaks at a news conference in this file photo. DHA photo

A leading business organization has warned against a public perception of tax probes on companies as a punishment, referring to the latest investigations initiated toward several energy firms owned by the Koç group, shortly after the group was publicly criticized by the Prime Minister.

“The apprehension of executed audits as a punishment by the public has a potential to create results as severe as in the case where the apprehension were true,” the Turkish Industrialists’ and Businessmen’s Association (TÜSİAD) said in a statement yesterday.

On July 24, police officers and Finance Ministry tax inspectors raided the offices of two Koç-controlled companies, Turkey’s sole refiner Tüpraş and energy company Aygaz, over tax-related allegations, prompting questions of whether the move was politically-inspired.

The public has questioned whether the probe was part of a witch-hunt against the group, which had been slammed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan about its stance on the Gezi Park protests.

Erdoğan has repeatedly criticized Divan Hotel, owned by Koç, for opening its doors to protesters fleeing police tear gas during weeks of anti-government demonstrations last month. Some analysts have warned it could face sanctions.

In yesterday’s statement, TÜSİAD pointed out the importance of maintaining an independent tax auditing structure which was in compliance with the universal market economy measures.

“The creation of an environment in which the independent regulator and inspector institutions, which are the most fundamental element of free market economies would damage the trust environment by wounding public conscience and justice feelings as well as violating the state of law principle,” the statement said.

Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek had condemned those linking the raids on Tüpraş and Aygaz with the protests, claiming the investigation is a part of governmnet’s tightened tax policies.

 “The Tax Inspection Board conducts 50,000 tax investigations every year. There is definitely no connection between the Gezi incidents and tax investigations,” he said on July 24 in a Twitter message.

Ali Koç, a board member of Koç Holding and the only member of the family who broke the silence regarding the issue, said as accounting for a remarkable proportion of the economy, the family’s interests and in line with the counry’s.

“It’s out of the question that we want or aim for anything other than the development of the Turkish economy and for Turkey to become the leader in its region,” he said on July 26.