Agency chairman detained by police in Turkish scandal

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[istanbul] The founder and chairman of Turkey's largest ad agency, Cenajans Grey, has been detained by police for questioning in a high-profile banking scandal.

The scandal revolves around Egebank, a client of the Turkish agency. Cenajans Grey is minority owned by Grey Worldwide.

Nail Kecili, held at the General Directorate of Security headquarters in Ankara since Nov. 1, was still in custody at deadline on Nov. 3. At that point, he had not been arrested or charged with any crime. In Turkey, police can detain people for questioning for two days without formally charging them. Extensions are routine, however.

Nuh Mete Yuksel, Turkey's chief public prosecutor, said on TV last week that "Mr. Kecili is taken under custody for questioning within the Egebank investigation because of some corruption allegations."


Mr. Kecili's client, Egebank Chairman Murat Demirel, was arrested earlier this year and charged with illegal fund transfers following an investigation of Egebank's records and transactions. Egebank is one of five financially troubled private Turkish banks taken over in December by the State Central Bank Savings Insurance Fund, a government body.

Mr. Demirel's trial, which started last month, has become a media circus in Turkey, where it dominates TV and newspaper coverage.

Even before Mr. Kecili's detention, CNN International's local channel, CNN Turk, aired footage Oct. 11 that was taken of Mr. Kecili entering Egebank's Istanbul headquarters the day before the bank was taken over Dec. 22, 1999, by the government's Insurance Fund. Although he was not identified, CNN Turk used the footage to accompany vague allegations by Sadettin Tantan, Turkey's minister of internal affairs, against anonymous wrongdoers.

Mr. Kecili called a news conference the next day and explained, "Cenajans Grey handled all the advertising activities of Egebank in 1999. . . . When CNN Turk aired video footage of me . . . I called the chief public prosecutor . . . and offered to give any information he might ask for."

The saga began when Cenajans Grey created a campaign in 1999 to boost Egebank's deposits. The day Mr. Kecili was filmed by CNN Turk he was attending a weekly agency-client meeting, which he said at his news conference started at 6 p.m. and continued after he left at 9 p.m. for another engagement. According to the Public Prosecutor's office, that evening Mr. Demirel and other Egebank executives removed several boxes from the bank's premises, just hours before the government took control of the bank.

Two other Cenajans Grey executives were also detained for questioning: Accounting Manager Muzaffer Cam and General Coordinator Hasip Ahmet.

Although Turkish government officials refused comment, newspapers published detailed accounts of auditors' findings, the questioning of Mr. Kecili and his supposed answers. According to the dailies, auditors found Mr. Kecili received a $4 million bank loan for a small private airline he owned, Cen Air, which he then sold to Mr. Demirel. The papers also reported Cenajans Grey billed Egebank $6 million for ad services performed for another company owned by Mr. Demirel. One newspaper, Hurriyet, quoted Mr. Kecili saying during questioning, "I have not taken a penny illegally."


"Basically what we have been told is that he has not been implicated," said John Shannon, London-based international president of Grey Worldwide. "We were surprised by it and have been assured by our partners that these allegations are unfounded."

The first fallout is likely this week. Kentbank, a local Turkish bank that awarded its account last summer to Cenajans Grey, is expected to fire the agency today.

The Turkish agency works for international Grey clients, including Procter & Gamble Co., Mars Inc. pet food and Nokia. Mr. Shannon stressed that a senior Grey Worldwide executive in Istanbul oversees multinational accounts and has no involvement with the financial side of the local agency.

The Egebank investigation is not Cenajans Grey's first brush with notoriety. The Turkish agency was single-handedly responsible for Grey's worldwide firing from the $90 million Barilla pasta account two years ago. After Italy refused to deport a Turkish terrorist, Cenajans Grey was involved in a political campaign to present Turkey's side. In one spot, a drop of blood drips toward a plate of pasta. Barilla regarded the ad as an attack on Italian pasta and moved the worldwide account to Young & Rubicam.

Contributing: Bill Britt in Londo

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