Turkish opposition renews attacks on Erdogan for offshore dealings

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a ceremony at the parliament, in Ankara, Turkey, Wednesday, July 15, 2020. (AP)
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Updated 15 July 2020

Turkish opposition renews attacks on Erdogan for offshore dealings

  • The CHP claimed that there was no record of an $8 million donation to the foundation for financing the construction of the dormitory

JEDDAH: The leader of main Turkish opposition party CHP has once again accused President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of not being transparent in disclosing his offshore wealth.

During his party’s parliamentary meeting on Tuesday, Kemal Kilicdaroglu said that Erdogan had been accumulating financial assets in the US for “political emergency situations” in case he and his family were obliged to leave Turkey and move to the US.

He said the reason why Erdogan could not react harshly against Washington was to keep his wealth secret and to avoid any investigation.

“They bought Muhammad Ali’s farm in Michigan because they know that if the epoch changes, they will all go to the US. They are amassing their assets there. Isn’t the unmerited income you made in Turkey enough?” the opposition leader said.

Last year, Turkey’s pro-government Turken Foundation, run by members of Erdogan’s family and some people very close to the president, purchased a 81-acre plot of land belonging to the late boxer Muhammad Ali and his wife on the St. Joseph River in southwest Michigan.

According to Kilicdaroglu, the foundation is currently building a 21-storey student dormitory in Manhattan.

Urging an investigation into the donation channels to the Turken Foundation in April, the CHP claimed that there was no record of an $8 million donation to the foundation for financing the construction of the dormitory.

In November 2017, Turkish media was full of allegations by the Turkish opposition that the Erdogan family transferred large amounts of money to an offshore company called Bellway Limited in the Isle of Man, which is an offshore tax haven and a self-governing British Crown Dependency off the English coast in the Irish Sea.

At that time, Kilicdaroglu insisted that he had proof that members of Erdogan’s family and his close associates transferred at least $15 million to an offshore company in late 2011 and early 2012, and he listed 10 separate payments as a proof. During his party’s weekly parliamentary meeting on November 28, 2017, Kilicdaroglu even publicly shared the swift codes and transfer receipts of this amount allegedly transferred to Isle of Man in 2011.

Erdogan in turn rejected the allegations as mere “lies.”

“If Tayyip Erdogan has a penny abroad, in any bank, come out and prove it. When you prove it, I give you the guarantee that I will not stay in the presidency one more minute,” Erdogan said.

Sued by Erdogan over his remarks about the Isle of Man connections, Kilicdaroglu was ordered to pay damages of 197 thousand liras ($29,000) to the president and his relatives.

Commenting on the case, Canan Kaftancioglu, a controversial CHP figure, said: “Just because our General President Kemal Kilicdaroglu told the truth and defended the pocket of the poor, he has to pay compensation, which will never silence and discourage us and him from speaking the truth.”

The accountability of the offshore bodies has been a hot topic in Turkish politics for a while, at a time when investigative journalists in the country are under attack and judicial independence is getting weaker.

Last year, a court in Istanbul sentenced Turkish journalist Pelin Unker to 13 months and 15 days in prison for “insulting and slandering a public official” after her report for the opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet alleging that Turkish politicians, including former Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, were using offshore entities linked to the “Panama Papers.”

Yildirim and his two sons sued the journalist in November 2017 and rejected claims that they have ties with five offshore companies in Malta.

Ibrahim Varli, editorial coordinator of BirGun, another opposition newspaper, who appealed against his judicial fine over a critical news report on Panama Papers was acquitted in late June.

Terror groups continue to recruit US citizens online

Updated 8 min 41 sec ago

Terror groups continue to recruit US citizens online

CHICAGO: Terrorist groups in Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq are successfully using online methods to recruit American citizens, according to officials from the US Justice Department and the Joint Terrorism Task Force.

In the past year, at least four US citizens have been convicted of funding terrorism or volunteering to commit terrorist acts overseas. On Aug. 11, 30-year-old Jesus Wilfredo Encarnacion was sentenced to 15 years in prison after attempting to join the Lashkar e-Tayyiba terrorist group in Pakistan.

Zachary Clark, 41, also known as “Umar Kabir,” pleaded guilty on Aug. 10 to providing material support to Daesh. He faces up to 20 years behind bars. Delowar Mohammed Hossain, 33, was arrested in July 2019 at JFK International Airport, as he attempted to travel to Afghanistan to support Taliban efforts to kill US soldiers.

Samantha Marie Elhassani, 34, traveled to Syria and Hong Kong with $30,000 to fund a terrorist attack planned by her husband and brother. She was charged in August 2018 and pleaded guilty in November last year. Encarnacion, Clark and Hossain lived in New York and Elhassani is from Indiana.

“Unfortunately, individuals continue to attempt to travel to foreign countries to support terrorist organizations,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers. “Encarnacion’s sentence reflects the seriousness with which the justice system takes these efforts.

“The National Security Division remains committed to identifying and holding accountable those who seek to join and support designated foreign terrorist organizations.”

Encarnacion planned to travel abroad to join and train with Lashkar e-Tayyiba, an organization known for targeting civilians, and carry out shootings, bombings and beheadings in its name, said Audrey Strauss, acting US attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Clark “pledged allegiance to Daesh and posted calls for attacks on the public and institutions in New York on encrypted pro-Daesh chatrooms,” Strauss said. He also “posted detailed instructions for carrying out those violent acts,” she added, distributing manuals with titles such as “Knife Attacks” and “Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of your Mom” in encrypted chat rooms set up to attract Daesh recruits.

“Clark’s efforts to incite deadly violence on behalf of (Daesh) have been silenced, and he now awaits sentencing for his crimes,” Strauss said. He credited for the arrest the efforts of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, which includes FBI agents and detectives from the New York Police Department.

William F. Sweeney Jr., the assistant director-in-charge of the FBI’s New York field office, said that Hossain’s “deadly plans” were also scuppered by task force.

“The lure of radical ideologies comes from many sources and just because the Taliban may seem like an old and out-of-vogue extremist group, it shouldn’t be underestimated,” he added.

Elhassani, a mother of two young children, became involved with Daesh when her husband and his brother decided to travel to Syria to join the group. Between November 2014 and April 2015 she made multiple trips to Hong Kong carrying more than $30,000 in cash and gold, which was deposited in a safe deposit box there.

Elhassani went to great lengths to assist her husband and brother-in-law, officials said, including melting down gold and making it look like jewelry. She was arrested in Syria by the Syrian Democratic Force and handed over to US law enforcement.