Audits find TMSF officials defrauded fund of TL 2 mln

July 31, 2012, Tuesday/ 15:45:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

Two officials and the employee of a private law firm have caused turkey's Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF) tl 2 million ($1.1 million) in losses following the commission of fraudulent spending between 2008 and 2009, investigations have revealed, according to the Hürriyet daily.

The daily reported on the details on the alleged fraud on Tuesday. According to the report, Finance Ministry auditors had earlier started investigations into operations of a Bursa-based tour company from which the TMSF received services. The investigations began when a former employee of Plaza Tur, Sibel Erdoğan, made an appeal to the court, demanding her final salary from Plaza Tur after she had resigned.

The audits have revealed TMSF Vice President Fethi Çalık, TMSF lawyer Aslı yıldırım and lawyer Sinan Pişmişoğlu from the law firm Baker & McKenzie spent TL 2 million of the TMSF's money for private purposes. The law firm was providing TMSF assistance during legal proceedings known as the "uzan case." The fund had earlier filed lawsuits against embattled businessman Cem Uzan, demanding millions in compensation for siphoning off company assets.

The officials had the TMSF pay for personal expenditures, including vacations inside Turkey and abroad, pretending these were "business trips." The three accused of fraud by the auditors allegedly spent their holidays in luxury hotels and participated in several expensive leisure activities in separate trips to Maldives, France, Argentina, Dubai, the Caribbean, Cyprus and the US.

Their extravagant expenditures include striptease bar visits, limousine services, spa and other luxury services in hotels where they stayed. The officials pretended they were "on duty" while enjoying the vacations. The audits have revealed Yıldırım and Pişmişoğlu also charged the company for separate expenditures made by close family members.

An Uzan subsidiary, Rumeli Çimento -- a cement firm -- paid for the separate private spending of family members of the two men. One of Pişmişoğlu's relatives is retired Gen. Çevik Bir. The auditor reports say Rumeli Çimento paid TL 9,960 for flights to the US on May 5, 2009, for Bir and his wife, Nilgün. When the auditors asked the former general about these tickets, he said he did not know how the tickets were paid for. The auditors' report said the officials "committed a major crime" and that Çalık, Yıldırım, Pişmişoğlu and Plaza Tur owner Serdal Can had to make restitution for the TL 2 million they spent fraudulently. The details of the alleged spending were all recorded by investigators.

The TMSF scandal follows a recent similar incident where investigators discovered a number of fraudulent schemes that helped 7,000 citizens get social security services from the Social Security Institution (SGK) and cause the institution a loss of around TL 70 million.

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