BY HARUT SASSOUNIAN
When Recep Tayyip Erdogan first came to power as Turkey’s Prime Minister in 2003, he was welcomed by the majority of Turks as a devout Muslim and honest politician, after being ruled by corrupt leaders for several decades.
Regrettably, as time passed, Erdogan and his fellow Islamist Party leaders (AKP) became gradually corrupted! Greed replaced their piety, and the temptation of big money was too hard to resist. The expression, ‘power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” aptly describes the transformation of Erdogan into a corrupt and autocratic leader.
In a lengthy article on the website theintercept.com, Andrew Fishman disclosed the unusual circumstances of Erdogan’s family receiving a $25 million oil tanker as a gift, under a secretive offshore arrangement! This sensational revelation comes a few years after the exposure of Erdogan’s recorded telephone conversations with his son Bilal, during which he advised him how to hide hundreds of millions of dollars in cash obtained mysteriously by Erdogan.
According to Fishman, the oil tanker was donated to Erdogan by Azeri billionaire Mubariz Mansimov back in 2008, as revealed by the European Investigative Collaboration (EIC) network, composed of 49 journalists from 13 media organizations in 16 countries. “Mansimov became a Turkish citizen two years earlier and adopted a Turkish name, Mubariz Gurbanoglu, allegedly at Erdogan’s suggestion,” Fishman reported. Not surprisingly, “after the deal was struck, his business dealings in Turkey took off, including lucrative contracts with state firms.”
Mansimov also befriended Pres. Donald Trump and was an invited guest at the presidential inauguration earlier this year, as a major investor in Istanbul’s Trump Towers. “When the 39 floors of residential and office block of Trump Towers opened in Istanbul in 2009, Mansimov was the first customer — buying eight apartments, including the penthouse,” according to the website: theblacksea.eu.
Fishman’s article on the intriguing and convoluted details of how the 13,000 ton ship was donated to Erdogan was based on the Malta Files, an investigation led by EIC, using a leaked cache of 150,000 documents from a Malta-based provider of legal, financial and corporate services, as well as a scraped version of the Malta Public Register of companies. In 2007, Mansimov purchased the oil tanker Agdash in Russia and registered it in the name of Pal Shipping Trader One, a Maltese holding company. In 2008, Bumerz, a company registered in the tax haven Isle of Man [UK] co-owned by Erdogan’s son (Burak Erdogan), brother (Mustafa) and brother-in-law (Ziya Ilgen) purchased all shares for $25 million. “The next day, that firm took out a $18.4 million loan arranged by Mansimov…. Documents show that Mansimov pledged to pay off the entire seven-year loan plus interest in exchange for leasing rights through 2015 (the remaining $7 million of the purchase price was paid by a close personal friend of Erdogan for reasons unknown. Mansimov’s company, which controls two-thirds of Black Sea oil shipping, extended the leasing option through 2020 for $1.2 million a year. All told, the deal amounts to a $21.2 million cash transfer from Mansimov to Erdogan’s family.”
Another source, Sg.news.yahoo.com, estimated the value of the oil tanker donated to the Erdogan family as $29.64 million. This website also disclosed that the “close personal friend of Erdogan” who paid $7 million for the purchase of the oil tanker is Sitki Ayan, a Turkish businessman.
The newspaper, Malta Today, revealed that Erdogan’s son-in-law, Berat Albayrak, in 2012 set up eight companies in Malta to avoid paying millions of dollars in taxes for his company, Calik Holdings, a massive energy, textile and construction conglomerate that earned billions of dollars in public tenders. He also opened four companies in Sweden.
Albayrak, the husband of Esra Erdogan, the President’s eldest daughter, received from a close associate an email in 2011, warning him that the secretive offshore companies are “based on tricking the finance authority; it’s not a secure system. If the finance authority discovers this, it wouldn’t be good for [Calik’s] reputation,” according to Malta Today.
In the end it turns out that Albayrak did not need a secret offshore network because in 2015 he was appointed by Erdogan as Minister of Energy and Resources. He helped pass the “Wealth Peace Act,” a tax amnesty which allowed Calik Holdings to repatriate unlimited amounts of offshore cash, tax-free!
Malta Today also reported that Erdogan is grooming his son-in-law Albayrak as his successor. It is not surprising that Albyarak accompanied Pres. Erdogan on his recent trip to the United States.
The reason many foreign companies are registered in Malta is that the country “boasts the lowest effective corporate tax rate [5%] in the European Union and has become a preferred destination for tax avoidance in the EU,” whereas in France, for example, the corporate tax rate is 33.33%, according to Fishman.