Ergenekon accused of fraud in military tenders

Ergenekon accused of fraud in military tenders

Ergenekon suspect retired Gen. Levent Ersöz worked for Russian weapons exporter, Rosoboronexport.

August 30, 2009, Sunday/ 11:24:00
Some of the retired military officers being held as suspects in the ongoing trial of Ergenekon -- a clandestine gang charged with crimes like assassinations and bombings as part of a plan to overthrow the government -- used their influence in the military to rig military tenders and help their cronies win military projects, Ergenekon case prosecutors say.The prosecutors conducting the investigation make the allegations in the third and latest indictment prepared so far in the landmark case. According to evidence included in the 138th folder of the Ergenekon evidence files, a mighty addendum to the third indictment, it was these tenders that brought together for the first time the civilian suspects in the case with the retired military officers.

The European Union has long called for the opening of military tenders to inspection by the Court of Accounts, but Turkish reform in this regard is yet to be completed.

Sikorsky helicopters involved

The 138th folder forwards the prosecution's evidence based on a letter found inside the home of Ergenekon suspect Ünal İnanç that suggests individuals organizing the tender accepted a bribe from helicopter manufacturer Sikorsky in a Gendarmerie General Command tender.

The note found in İnanç's home, a summary of what he had heard from a man he referred to as Atilla -- a retired noncommissioned officer who worked as a technician in the military and was employed at Sikorsky's Turkish headquarters -- reads, “A 35-year-old American who maintains contact with the US and acts as a coordinator is head of the company. Former Gendarmerie Generals R.B. and F.Ö.B. are also there. F.Ö.B. retired from the force three years ago. R.B. replaced him. F.Ö.B. used to get $40,000 dollars a month from the company as his salary, and gave half to Gendarmerie General Commander F.Ö.B. At the end of the year, F.Ö.B. will be retiring and R.B. will replace him. From then on, R.B. will maintain contact between M.Ş.E., appointed as the General Commander. This wheel has been turning like this for 11 years. Retired Gen. A.Ö., formerly head of the Land Forces Land Aviation Department, is doing the same thing here. A., who provided the information, works for this company. He is a former Sikorsky helicopter technician who was a noncommissioned officer. He goes to tenders in Ankara and then goes to the Land Forces Command and the Gendarmerie and does the distribution; 90 percent of all of the tenders regarding Sikorsky go to this company.”

There have also been claims that Ergenekon suspect retired Gen. Levent Ersöz worked as a consultant for Russian weapons exporter Rosoboronexport. Ersöz was at large for 10 months until he was captured earlier this year during a hospital visit in Ankara. He is known to have hid in Russia for most of his time as a fugitive. The press had reported that Ulvia Seremova, a person who was with him in the hospital when he was apprehended, is a representative of this company. Ersöz's daughter has stated that her father was cheating on her mother with Seremova.

Retired soldiers in all tenders

The Ergenekon prosecution has evidenced the involvement of retired officers in many military tenders. The prosecution has evidence showing that the Union of Patriots, a group formerly known as the Patriotic Forces Union of Strength Movement, closely monitored each military tender. This past week, a court ruled to merge a separate trial of members of the Union of Patriots with the Ergenekon trial. In the case against the Union of Patriots, the association's chairman and former deputy chairman were being tried for “knowingly aiding and abetting Ergenekon members, despite not being part of the organization's hierarchal structure.” The court hearing the case ruled on Friday that the two trials should be merged due to effective and legal connections.

The prosecution's evidence is mostly based on phone conversations between the association's members Taner Ünal, Ahmet Cinali, Vehbi Şanlı, Salih Zeki Balaban, Halit Bozdağ Güngör, Mesut Sezer and İlhami Demirtaş. In these conversations, the suspects speak openly about their methods of rigging Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) tenders. Ergenekon prosecutors have established that some of these operations were carried out with military officers and have applied to the General Staff Military Court to demand an investigation. However, the military prosecutor has not started any probe into the issue. The Ergenekon indictment lists 20 military tenders that it claims were rigged.

The indictment says that the association's deputy chairman, Salih Zeki, is also a retired officer and has rigged TL 94 million worth of tenders.

Tenders and cronyism

The indictment also claims that Atilla Uğur, a retired colonel at the Gendarmerie General Command and a major suspect in the investigation, is a partner of a company that manufactures military equipment, along with a man named Hakan Şanlı. The investigation has shown that all of the company's tender applications were handled by Uğur himself. The prosecution is also claiming that Ergenekon suspect Hayrettin Ertekin attempted to use his influence to get a military underwear purchase tender to go in favor of a textile manufacturer owned by a friend of his; the company was rejected based on product quality. Ertekin requested the help of Gen. Yalçın Özçer, trying to sell substandard textiles to the military, the prosecution says.

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