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Banks can't hold SMS-misinformers liable: lawyer

19 february 2014, 18:34
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©AFP
©AFP
Banks won't be able to bring the ones who were distributing misinformation about bankruptcy of 3 Kazakhstan banks to criminal or administrative liability, Tengrinews reports citing a Kazakh lawyer Jokhar Utebekov.

He said this when commenting on the yesterday's upstir caused by text messages coming from an anonymous group of misinformers spreading rumours of an immanent bankruptcy of Kaspi Bank, Center Credit bank and Alliance bank. The information was spreading very fast via social networks and What's Up and caused a frenzy among the banks' clients who started withdrawing their deposits. Kaspi Bank set a $500 000 bounty trying to get someone to reveal the source of the dramatic rumour.

"First of all the statement posted on the website of Alliance Bank is worded incorrectly. It says the three banks together with the Financiers Association of Kazakhstan turned to the police asking them to find the initiators and hold them criminally and administratively liable. But there is no way they can do it this way, because we don't have an applicable law. The case may be interpreted as Slander, but slander charges are part of the Offence against Person section of the Criminal Code of Kazakhstan. But this misinformation campaign wasn't targeted against any specific person. The action cannot be qualified at Giving of False Evidences in the Media either. That is why the banks cannot bring the source of the misinformation to criminal and administrative responsibility, even if they find them," he explained.

Utebekov advise the banks to approach the case using civil proceedings, that however are not lacking pitfalls completely either. Legal entities cannot claim compensation of moral damage. "But the banks can claim a compensation for their losses and damaged business reputation. But in this case they have to prove in court that they have incurred losses. I believe this won't be hard to do as they actually got mass deposits withdrawals," the lawyer Utebekov concluded.

However he failed to look further into the future. Provided that the banks find the group of anonymous individuals that are their offenders, prove it in court that they incurred losses as a result of the misinformation campaign and get a court ruling ordering the offenders to compensate their millions worth of losses, then what? They sure don't expect a dozen of loosers to be able to compensate them their lost millions?

On February 11, 2014 Kazakhstan experience a nearly 20% devaluation of tenge against US dollar. The exchange rate surged from 155 tenge per $1 to 185 tenge per $1 in on step. Big stores increased prices on their imported goods by 20-30% the same day. The state authorities promised to keep food prices from spiking and monitor the situation, but some of the Kazakhstan cities are experiencing price escalation and shortages already. Kostanay and Ust-Kamenogorsk have been experiencing a shortage of sugar this week, for example.

Amid the devaluation and the population's fears the anonymous group started spreading alerts about an allegedly immanent meltdown of three large Kazakhstan banks. The banks refuted the information immediately and assured their clients that they were stable, but this didn't prevent a wave of panic.


By Rosa Yessenkulova

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