(Washington, D.C.) — The Turkish Democracy Project (TDP) has called on BBVA, a Spanish multinational financial services company, to examine its business interests in Turkey and sever all engagements with a banking sector that has become inextricably enmeshed with endemically corrupt companies and government bodies.
In February 2022, TDP initiated a campaign calling on international banks to cease their associations with corrupt Turkish financial sector actors. TDP research raised concerns about BBVA’s links to this sector, which were highlighted in a letter to the Spanish organization on April 4, 2022.
Amid historic macroeconomic volatility precipitated by skyrocketing inflation, many banks and financial service providers have chosen to limit or withdraw their Turkish operations. However, BBVA has this year announced that it would significantly increase its investment banking unit in Turkey, adding an additional 400 bankers.
Since first contacting BBVA, TDP has unearthed further concerning information about the bank’s acquisition of Garanti, Turkey’s second largest private banking firm, which has become notorious for its links to corruption scandals. On November 15, 2021, BBVA announced that it would make a $2.6 billion investment to take full control of the Turkish financial services firm Garanti.
In 2019, Garanti was found to have funneled billions of euros out of Russia in a money laundering scheme in cooperation with Russia’s largest bank, Troika Dialog, along with Amsterdam Trade Bank (ATB). Owned by Russia’s largest firm Alfa-Bank, ATB is a notorious money laundering operator and is currently under sanctions and again in the spotlight for its fidelity to Russian oligarchs. An investigation by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) revealed that Garanti was one key actor in the ‘Troika Laundromat’, responsible for siphoning billions of dollars from Russia into a network of 70 offshore accounts in Lithuania. Garanti processed approximately $217 million.
Despite the bank’s numerous scandals, which betray a deeply corrupt corporate culture, BBVA has not been deterred from taking a controlling stake. On April 25, BBVA confirmed it had raised its bid for the rest of the Turkish bank, taking advantage of the depreciation of the Turkish Lira with a $2.1 billion offer.
Commenting on BBVA’s lack of response and acquisition of Garanti, Ambassador Mark Wallace, CEO of the Turkish Democracy Project, said:
“We urge BBVA to immediately sever its ties with Turkey’s financial sector, which has become central to President Erdogan’s system of entrenched corruption. BBVA’s involvement in Turkey is in complete contradiction with its stated corporate values. It enables Turkey’s corrupt oligarchs and entrenches authoritarianism at the expense of the Turkish people.”