Yasin al-Qadi escorted by PM's security detail, daily reports
Turkey’s corruption scandal broke on Dec. 17 with the detention of several high-level officials and businessmen, including Reza Zarrab (C). (Photo: Today's Zaman, Kürşat Bayhan)
Turkey may be placed in a difficult position in the international arena as Yasin al-Qadi, a Saudi Arabian businessman who is on the US Treasury Department's “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” list, has entered Turkey multiple times escorted by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's protective detail and without a passport or visa, the Taraf daily reported on Monday.
Taraf's report gave details of the investigation of prosecutor Muammer Akkaş, who was removed from the ongoing corruption operation on Dec. 26 after he attempted to launch a second phase of the investigation, allegedly involving prominent business and political figures.
The first part of the police operation was on Dec. 17, when the sons of two Cabinet ministers, state-run Halkbank General Manager Süleyman Aslan and Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab were arrested along with 20 other suspects.
According to the report, Saudi businessman al-Qadi illegally entered Turkey four times between February 2012 and October 2012. Although his entry into the country was banned by a Cabinet decision, it is reported that the prime minister's protective detail escorted him during his time in Turkey, and allegedly there are photos of this in the investigation file.
Usama Qutb, another name being investigated by prosecutors, reportedly escorted al-Qadi during his visits to Turkey.
According to the investigation, al-Qadi attended some meetings with boards of directors from certain companies including Bosphorus 360, and he allegedly met with Mustafa Latif Topbaş, a partner of Turkish discount retailer BİM.
When al-Qadi visited Turkey, the prime minister's security detail, police officer İbrahim Yıldız, allegedly welcomed him at the airport. Al-Qadi took care of his business through his son, Muaz Kadıoğlu, according to Taraf.
According to the investigation, Bosphorus 360 was about to buy land belonging to a police school in İstanbul's Etiler neighborhood for $460 million, which is below the land's real value, without opening the plot to bidding. The total loss to the public would reportedly have been $540 million.
Another allegation is that al-Qadi entered and left Turkey by means of Topbaş's private jet. According to Taraf, when al-Qadi arrived, the airport's security cameras were covered and he was allowed to enter illegally through the VIP section with no official procedure, passport or visa.
After al-Qadi's entering Turkey was banned, he reportedly came to Turkey on June 14, 2012, and attended a meeting of BİM's board of directors.
After attending the meeting at BİM headquarters, two bags of money inside boxes were put into al-Qadi's car, and then he left in a plane with this money.
The United Nations enforced sanctions against al-Qadi in 1999 and 2000 to freeze his assets around the world after a UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution named him as a suspected associate of Osama bin Laden's terrorist network, al-Qaeda.
The US Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) ordered al-Qadi's US assets to be frozen in October 2001. The EU also agreed sanctions on al-Qadi. His listing as a terrorist was overturned by several European courts, and his name was removed from blacklists by Switzerland, the European Union and the United Kingdom. However, his name remains on the “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” list under US law. The UNSC committee monitoring sanctions against al-Qaeda accepted al-Qadi's petition to be removed from its blacklist in October 2012.
After 9/11, al-Qadi reportedly moved his operations to Turkey and Switzerland from Saudi Arabia. Forbes magazine reported that al-Qadi is a friend of Erdoğan, claiming that through this friendship he was able to avoid the sanctions against him. Erdoğan has been quoted as saying: “I know al-Qadi. I believe in him as I believe in myself. For al-Qadi to associate with a terrorist organization, or support one, is impossible.”
“These are all crimes,” says Dr. Mehmet Altan, an academic and writer, who spoke to Today's Zaman on the Taraf report.
“It is becoming clear why this investigation on corruption is being covered up. The seriousness of the allegations and the documents is being seen in all its horror. There have been court decisions both in the first investigation, in which people were detained, and the second investigation in which those detentions are being prevented. It is a crime to prevent a judicial process when there is a court decision,” said Altan.
“It is in the court where everything will be cleared. They [the government] cannot avoid court by creating noise and talking in every square. Even if they go and talk street by street, house by house, it is not possible to prevent this judicial process through political claims,” he added.
“There are many documents against the person you are trying to protect. When you try to whitewash this person and disregard the rule of law, then this process smears you too,” said Altan.
Altan stressed that the way to acquit oneself in corruption allegations is not by paralyzing the judiciary but by clearing the way for the judiciary. He said the government is trying to paralyze the judiciary with fear, and that it isn't only Turkey but the whole world that is watching.
“You are protecting criminals. You are in a relationship with Iran, of which the world system does not approve. You welcome someone who is a suspect and wanted as though he were a state official. Thinking that you can solve this problem outside the rule of law, without paying the price, is gross negligence,” said Altan. He added: “Unfortunately, the government is not only challenging the Turkish judiciary but it is trying to deceive the world. It is not possible to make this work. Persisting with this mistake will be the end of the regime in the country.”
“The allegation about protecting someone who is being sought by the international system is a very serious allegation. It is a troubling image for Turkey's reputation. Violating the international rule of law and disregarding international agreements are not mistakes for a democratic country which respects the rule of law,” Turgut Özal University's terrorism and security expert Dr. Mahmut Akpınar told Today's Zaman.
“It is unacceptable to take a position in which you are protecting a person who is being sought. According to the media, this person has entered Turkey four times in eight months. Normally, law enforcement officials should have caught him. Quite the contrary, he is under the protection of the prime minister's security detail. This is scandalous. Paralyzing the judiciary is making this scandal even bigger,” he added.
İstanbul Mayor Kadir Topbaş has rejected claims that the vacant grounds of the Etiler Police Academy, the only empty plot in Etiler, with a value of $1 billion, were sold to a company for $460 million with no public bidding.
According to the allegations, the state sustained a financial loss of $600 million in this sale. Including planned construction on the site, the financial loss to the state may have reached several billion dollars, experts say.
However, a week after these allegations were reported in the media, Topbaş held a press conference in which he displayed an ownership certificate showing that the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality owns that land.
According to the allegations, the same company waited only one month for a mining license in a forested area of Paşaköy in İstanbul's Sultanbeyli district, although the Ministry of Forestry had denied all such permission in that area for some time previously. In return for the mining license, which had a value of $10 billion, one of the suspects became a 50 percent partner in the business without paying the company's owner. After a period of time, the owner left the partnership and the company was taken over by the other partner, who allegedly paid nothing.