Presidential advisers dragged into Turkey’s corruption quagmire
Sedat Peker, a ringleader in Turkey’s underground world, in 2020 began releasing videos revealing irregularities in the country and in the Turkish community abroad. He is believed to be living in Dubai. The Turkish media claims that Ankara may have asked the UAE authorities to prevent him from continuing to release such videos. As a result, after dozens of videos that gained tens of millions of views, he interrupted them for a while, only to later resume his disclosures, this time in packages of scores of Twitter messages. He has recently announced that he will disclose new facts two months before the elections that are scheduled for next June. The fact that he is planning to disclose them at a date so close to the vote may mean that he plans to deal a deadly blow to the ruling AKP.
Last week’s disclosures were widely reported in the Turkish media. As a result, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had to dismiss a presidential adviser, Serkan Taranoglu, for his role in the alleged bribery scandals. Another adviser, Korkmaz Karaca, a member of the Presidential Economic Policies Council whose name was also mentioned in the bribery scandals, had already resigned a week earlier, citing health reasons.
The story seems to have started with businesswoman Mine Sineren, who wanted to increase her company’s capital, so she asked former Capital Markets Board Chairman Ali Taskesenlioglu for help. Sineren claimed that, for eight months, she was prevented from reaching the Capital Markets Board and was eventually directed to the bribery channels, whereas no case for a capital increase was kept pending for such a long period.
Taskesenlioglu referred Sineren to his sister, Zehra Ban, who is an AKP member of parliament. So, the corruption wheel started to turn. Ban, in turn, directed Sineren to a financial consultancy company called Way Out, which has a business partnership with her. Way Out asked to be paid 12 million Turkish lira ($660,000) to sort the problem out. After Sineren refused to pay this “consultancy fee,” she turned to another influential figure, Salih Orakci, who is a member of the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges.
The dismissal and the resignation in the presidential palace proves there is something fishy in the entire affair.
He told Sineren that it would be easier for him to solve her problems if he was allowed to become her business partner. But there was no free lunch. Orakci asked Sineren to buy two cars for him — a BMW and a Porsche — and pay him 2.5 million lira as a fee. She acquiesced to this deal, bought the cars and paid the “fee,” but plans to increase her company’s capital did not materialize. Sineren then initiated a court procedure to cancel the partnership contract with Orakci.
Then a competition broke out between two presidential advisers. Taranoglu warned Sineren that Karaca also wanted to contact her, but he warned her not to contact him because he would ask for “a lot of money.”
Sineren claimed she informed the relevant state institutions that unnecessary difficulties were being created. In fact, shortly after she bought two new companies, she received official notification claiming that these companies were being sequestered because of promissory notes that she had supposedly signed. She protested and claimed that the signatures on the notes were fake. She sent the notes to the criminal verification office of the gendarmerie, but it confirmed that the signatures were authentic. Upon this, she sent them to a forensic laboratory in Ankara. This lab concluded that the signatures were not in Sineren’s handwriting. Therefore, the fake sequestration claim fell.
The question became more complicated when Ban, the AKP member of parliament, initiated a court action to divorce her husband. The connection between the corruption scandal and this case is that Ban cited in her petition to the court, perhaps unnecessarily, that her husband had lost $2.5 million in the stock market from their shared bank account and she wanted him to pay this money back. She also cited other amounts that her husband owed her.
This claim focused attention on the family’s assets. The figures mentioned by Ban went beyond what a couple — composed of an MP and an academic — could put together in a reasonable time.
The truth can only be revealed if a transparent investigation is carried out, but the dismissal and the resignation in the presidential palace proves there is something fishy in the entire affair.
- Yasar Yakis is a former foreign minister of Turkey and founding member of the ruling AK Party. Twitter: @yakis_yasar