Halkbank sells dollars on the cheap prompting public outcry

Turkish state-owned Halkbank sold dollars on the cheap in what the bank said was a failure of third-party foreign exchange software.

The bank, run by Turkey’s sovereign wealth fund, offered dollars at 3.88 liras in late night trade on Friday before its website went offline. The dollar had closed the week at 6.58 liras.

Halkbank said in a statement that the trading at these erroneous levels had been limited in scope and occurred for a short period. Prices had now been corrected, it said.

The event prompted heated discussions on social media. Some Twitter users accused the government of organizing the trades to covertly help indebted companies facing heavy repayments of foreign currency loans in September. Others said the bank had failed to prevent an apparent cyber-attack, pointing the finger at hacker groups.

Opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet called on the bank to fully disclose the trades and who had made them.

Halkbank is a focus of controversy in Turkey after a deputy CEO of the bank was arrested and tried in the United States for his alleged involvement in a scheme to evade sanctions on Iran. The official, Mehmet Hakan Atilla, is now in Manhattan jail awaiting an appeal hearing while Halkbank is the subject of a U.S. Treasury investigation that could result in heft fines.

Social media users also pointed to erroneous dollar buying and selling prices set by ING late on Friday that lent credence to a cyber attack taking place. ING, which hasn’t made a statement explaining the price discrepancies, was offering dollars at 4.88 liras at one point, clips published on Twitter showed.

Halkbank lira