The FinCEN files that were released last Sunday shook the world. News agencies have since put forward detailed reports of criminals, oligarchs, and despots moving dirty money around the world.
The FinCEN files, which were carried out by the ICIJ (International Consortium of Investigative Journalists), are undoutedbly one of the finest journalistic works of the year. The files show how dirty money is laundered every day and how multinational banks contribute to this process. One would expect that although in a censored form, the files would nonetheless make it to mainstream Turkish news. Yet as the files involve the Turkish regime, they didn’t.
The Turkish connection of FinCEN Files was published in detail by Courthouse News and OCCRP on the same day. Adem Karahan, who worked for Turkish-Iranian money launderer Reza Zarrab to funnel millions of dollars, gave an exclusive interview presenting new documents and photographs.
In fact, in 2015, Karahan had already told the daily newspaper Cumhuriyet about the money laundering scheme, through which Zarrab got a 4% commission for himself and 4% for the politicians. According to the files, the United Arab Emirates’ central bank, the UK-based Standard Chartered and Deutsche Bank took part in Zarrab’s billion-dollar scheme.
However, Deutsche Welle Turkish reported that there was more to come: Aktifbank, which is part of Çalık Group, conducted a number of suspicious transactions while Berat Albayrak was the group’s CEO. Albayrak, who is the son-in-law of President Erdoğan, currently serves as Turkey’s Finance minister. Aktifbank is also accused of helping the porn industry to launder money.
The files also reveal that Turkey’s petrochemical company Petkim has been involved in illegal oil business transactions in Syria.
No wonder the mainstream media can’t report on these scandals. Still, I tried to find out what was reported, and how. Only oppositional and independent outlets such as Cumhuriyet, Evrensel, Birgün, Yurt and the daily newspaper Sözcü published FinCEN Files and the Turkish involvement. All digital, independent media did report on it as well. None of the government-controlled newspapers and digital outlets did.
As for TV channels, only CNNTurk, which is owned by the goverment-friendly Demirören Group, broadcasted a brief video explaining how international banks were involved in money laundering. Yet it did not utter a word on the Turkish politicians, banks and companies.
The FinCen files and the Turkish involvement was reported in the remaining independent TV channels, namely Fox TV, Halk TV and Tele 1. Three days and passing, I have not come across any in-depth debate or reporting by these channels either. This might be due to the fact that these channels are under heavy regulation by the state, eager to fine and order a broadcast ban.
Three days on, the FinCen files do not feature on the agenda of the opposition parties. Only CHP’s spokesman Faik Öztrak made a remark on Zarrab and on Wednesday, CHP MP and Vice Chairman Ali Öztunç asked the parliament about FinCen files. Opposition party leaders, CHP’s Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, İYİ Party’s Meral Akşener, HDP Co-chairs Sancar and Buldan have yet to deliver a statement about it.
Sooner or later they will, but what are they waiting for?
Bear in mind that two seperate court rulings back in July ordered Kılıçdaroğlu to pay 81,000 dollars for his remarks on Erdoğan’s family and their offshore company on the Isle of Man.
Investigations that came out in December 2013 had revealed the extent of the corruption that plagues Turkish politics. Erdoğan and his government had discarded these investigations as a Gülenist scheme. Yet further evidence came out, such as that of the Halkbank case in the US or the Panama Papers, which revelaed that Turkish officials and their families were involved in corruption on an international scale.
None of this was disproven, yet Erdoğan has managed to overcome all these scandals so far. Back then, the people were asked prior to the elections what they thought of these allegations. Some of them had never heard of them, others firmly believed that Erdoğan wouldn’t behave as such. Some even came up with the saying “he steals, but he works.” This remains a joke on Twitter when lower-scale corruption cases are revealed, but I believe it truly reflects how people perceive the situation. As for the FinCEN files, Erdoğan supporters who will hear about it won’t care so much, as they will blame the “world financial system.” Instad, they will care more about how their leader handles it, by coming up with new hot topics or finding new enemies of the state.
The opposition parties are aware of this. The CHP no longer focuses on AKP corruption after it was accused of having ties with the Gulenists, a few MPs landed in jail and Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu himself narrowly escaped a lynching attempt.
They came to believe that they can’t deal with Erdoğan’s aggressive politics and cannot get more votes, either. 20 years ago, even 10 years ago, news as significant as the FinCEN Files would have sparked protests, perhaps even a change in the political landscape. But especially after the radical change of the political system in 2017, which is called the “Turkish Type Presidential system”, we are at a point of no return. And no one knows how people will continue to live in this antidemocratic and neo-fascist regime.