Turkish state-run bank chief to lead production of Sputnik V as head of mystery pharma firm

A Turkish pharmaceutical company headed by the chairman of a state-run Islamic bank will produce the Russian-developed Sputnik V vaccine in Turkey.

Öztürk Oran, who has run Vakıf Participation Bank since 2015, also chairs pharmaceutical firm VisCoran. The company began meetings with Russian officials nine months ago to manufacture the COVID-19 vaccine. It will start producing it once it gets official approval from the Turkish authorities, Oran said this week, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

VisCoran's website appears to be under construction as of Wednesday.

On Jan. 24, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) announced that it had signed a contract with a Turkish firm for the production of Sputnik V in Turkey. It did not name the company.

Oran is also chairman of the board of pharmaceutical firms Terra and MYFARMA. He served as a director of state-run Vakıfbank between 2014 and 2017 and is the former chief of the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce (ITO). He sits on the board of the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB), the country’s biggest business group.

Vakıf Participation was established in 2015 on the request of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is seeking to turn Istanbul into a hub for the banking industry, and Islamic banking in particular.

Vakıf Participation and parent Vakıfbank are controlled by Turkey’s sovereign wealth fund, which is chaired by Erdoğan. The fund took ownership of the companies last year.

Turkey is seeking to produce Sputnik V after Erdoğan and Russian President Vladimir Putin improved relations between the two countries in recent years. Russia is one of the top three exporting countries to Turkey, providing billions of dollars of natural gas each year and also building a nuclear power plant in the south of the country.

Turkey has bought S-400 air defence missiles from Russia at a cost of more than $2 billion. The two governments are cooperating in a peace process for Syria and their militaries are jointly supervising a ceasefire agreement between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh.