Monday, November 12, 2007

The Turkish Inquisition, 2007

Almost 65 years to the date, on November 11, 1942, Turkey enacted the most draconian tax ever envisaged. The Varlik Vergisi, the wealth tax, which in effect confiscated the wealth of Jews and Christian Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks primarily in Istanbul, and sent many male members of these minorities to labor camps in the east of the country. Figuring the religious and ethnic origin of this group was not always a simple task as all citizens were forced to adopt Turkish-sounding surnames in 1935 and because Turks have come to resemble more the Caucasians they conquered and less their Asiatic ancestors from central Asia.

Faik Okte, the administrator of this tax at the Turkish Ministry of Finance wrote a book on the subject documenting all of its features and naming its victims. The book has been translated from the Turkish "Varlik Vergisi Faciasi" into English and is entitled "The Tragedy of the Turkish Capital Tax," by Geoffrey Cox, Croom Helm, 1987.

Exactly 65 years later, history repeats itself with the inquisition extending its reach beyond the borders of Turkey, and that of its citizens. This time the government of Turkey seems to trace the ethnic origin of a partner in a Kazakhstan-based consortium planning to invest $2.1 billion in a privatization project in Turkey, and may have rejected its bid because of the partner's Armenian roots; it accepts a lower bid of $2.04 billion for a loss of $60 million to the taxpayers of Turkey.

As reported to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission on September 6, 2007, Form 424B5 page S-17, the government of Turkey announced "that the consortium of TransCentralAsia Petrochemical Holding made the highest bid of $2.1 billion for 51% of the shares of Petkim." For some unknown reason, the recent press reports a figure of $2.05 billion! On November 12, 2007, the anniversary when the Varlik Vergisi went into effect, the New Anatolian reported that "Turkey's Competition Board has approved the sale of state-run petrochemicals company Petkim to the second highest bidder ... to consortium of the Azerbaijani oil company Socar, Turkey's Turcas and Saudi-based Injaz Projects..." There were 18 prequalifying bids, including European petrochemicals producers INEOS and Basell.

Here is the way information is reported and analyzed by a source in Azerbaijan, the other Turkic state:

The first bidder Kazakh-based Transcentral Asia Petrochemical Holding is reported to be owned by Kazakh national Alexander Matskevich who chairs Eurasian Jews Confederation. He sits in the Forbes List of World’s Richest People.
In the bidding he had been bankrolled by Troika Dialog (commonly referred to as “Troika”), one of the largest investment groups in Russia.
Troika is controlled by Armenian national Ruben Vardanian who owns a 65% stake...

Why the interest in the Jewish or Armenian roots, or that of any other group? Should Israel not allow the imports of Ford Motor products because its former CEO, Nasser of Australia, has Arab roots? Should Arab countries not deal with Citibank because its Chairman of the Board is Robert Rubin, a Jewish American? Indeed, the largest shareholder of Citibank, Prince Alwaleed of Saudi Arabia, a country with no relations with Israel, expressed his trust in the leadership of Rubin and others at Citibank earlier this month. Is it possible that Turkey, with its values and business practices, is perhaps not much more worthy of NATO membership and joining the EU than is Saudi Arabia?

It has been well over five centuries since the Spanish Inquisition. One would think we have come a long way since.

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