Mafia boss’ claims cast pall over Biden-Erdogan meeting

JEDDAH: Most Turks were eagerly awaiting Sunday to watch the latest video and whistleblowing claims from a notorious gangland figure who was close to the government until recently.

In his ninth video, Turkey’s fugitive mafia leader Sedat Peker, who is believed to live in Dubai, claimed that Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu had alerted corrupt businessman Sezgin Baran Korkmaz to flee the country to avoid prosecution.

Last September, US prosecutors in Utah submitted a list of properties belonging to the Kingston brothers, Korkmaz’s business partners, to a US court and asked them to be reclaimed, as they were found guilty to a $470 million fraud of a government program.

These properties included companies and real estate in Turkey.

US authorities revealed that the brothers transferred huge sums of money in fraudulent proceeds to several companies, some in Turkey, on the instruction of Armenian-Turkish businessman Lev Aslan Dermen, who was allegedly financing Korkmaz’s business activities in Turkey.

In early May, Turkish prosecutors prepared an indictment into Korkmaz over money laundering through the transfer of his income in the US illegally to the companies he owns as part of a decade-long scheme to cheat US authorities out of at least $470 million.

Peker claimed that on Dec. 5, Korkmaz and Soylu met in the interior ministry in Ankara for two hours, and the minister warned Korkmaz that he was being investigated.

Korkmaz fled the country the next day. A detention warrant was issued for Korkmaz as part of a probe into money laundering worth $132 million.

Peker, who said that Korkmaz was invited to the ministry headquarters by a deputy police chief, urged opposition parties to check all security footage of that day when the businessman was filmed when entering the ministry building.

The gangland boss also claimed that a critical $45 million money transaction between Korkmaz and a Turkish businessman was also known to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The transaction came from a purchase made by Korkmaz in September 2020 of Luxembourg-based Silcolux Investment. Forty-five percent of the shares in the company were owned by Turkish businessman Inan Kirac.

This purchase gave Korkmaz 45 percent of the shares of Kirac and about one third of Karsan Automotive a partner of a large group that is designing Turkey’s first indigenous car — one of Erdogan’s “signature” projects.

Last year, Kirac asked Korkmaz to return his shares after the money laundering investigation, but he refused. A deal was reached later after the intervention of the Turkish presidency, Peker claimed.

Peker, a former ally of the Turkish government, has released bombshell videos in which he confesses to corrupt activities and details his partnership with senior government figures.

The mafia boss also fled Turkey due to an approaching investigation against him. He was promised a return to his homeland in April, but a nationwide police operation was launched in April targeting him and his associates.

Although the allegations have shaken Turkish domestic politics, the government has yet to react strongly or provide convincing answers to the claims.

Peker’s latest video, entitled “We are growing not by aging and living, but by resisting,” has been watched by more than 6.6 million people since early Sunday.

With Erdogan and his US counterpart Joe Biden meeting on June 14 at NATO summit, how the US authorities react to the bombshell claims about a key person involved in a major fraud scheme in the US is a source of concern.

Peker said that Metin Kulunk, a senior figure in Turkish domestic politics and a former deputy from the ruling Justice and Development Party, recently asked him not to release the video before the Erdogan-Biden meeting.

However, this request appears to have further irritated the mafia boss who claims that wants to take revenge on government officials who were involved in raids on his residence.

In the same video, Peker said he was giving money to Kulunk every month during election periods, and was also sending money to German-based associations connected with the Turkish government in order to support their criminal activities.

In recent years, the German press revealed close links between Kulunk, a confidant of Erdogan, with a boxing group named Osmanen Germania that was involved in organized crime.

The gang was accused of targeting opponents of the Turkish government, especially Kurds living in Germany.

German media, especially Frontal 21, an investigative news program on public broadcaster ZDF and the daily Stuttgarter Nachrichten, accused Kulunk of providing the gang with money to buy weapons and organize protests.

The investigation into the group, which is believed to have 2,500 members in Germany, was based on phone taps and monitoring.

German police revealed that the boxing group had close contact with the Union of European Turkish Democrats, the ruling Justice and Development Party’s lobbying group abroad.

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