Duvar English

The Turkish Red Crescent’s donations to a foundation known with a child sexual abuse scandal have stirred debate on social media, with thousands asking whether the move was made to evade tax.

The Ankara-based natural gas distribution company Başkent Gaz donated eight million dollars to Turkish Red Crescent on Dec. 27, 2017, which was followed by the aid organization transferring 7,925,000 dollars of the said donation to the Ensar Foundation, news website gazetta9 reported on Jan. 28.

All donations made to Turkish Red Crescent are tax deductible. Başkent Gaz, which was purchased by Torunlar GYO – a company with close ties to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) – has reportedly made nearly 1.5 million dollars of tax advantage via recording eight million dollars as expenses.

The Ensar Foundation was at the center of a scandal in 2016 after a teacher working in its branch in the Central Anatolian province of Karaman was convicted of sexually abusing 10 male school children aged 10-12 from 2012 and 2015.

The foundation’s reputation has not been recovered ever since the incident.

Shortly after the website’s report that featured a document proving the transfers, the Red Crescent released a statement, confirming that such transaction took place.

“When donating money to the Red Crescent, this charitable foundation asked us to transfer that money to this foundation in order to be used for constructing student dormitories,” the statement released by the Red Crescent read on Jan. 30.

The document that caused uproar on social media and that was signed by Başkent Gaz’s then-Deputy General Manager Asım Yüksel and the company’s CEO Mehmet Torun shows that the Red Crescent received only 75,000 dollars of the aforementioned donation.

The Red Crescent said that charitable companies and individuals may make conditional donations.

“The Red Crescent met the donator’s conditions via transferring the money to the foundation,” the aid organization also said.

Başkent Gaz refrained from releasing a detailed statement.

“The Red Crescent’s statement is sufficient for us,” it said.

Turkish Red Crescent’s activities often come under public scrutiny, with the most recent one taking place when the organization’s head Kerem Kınık urged Turkish citizens to donate money to help those affected by the earthquake in the eastern province of Elazığ.

Following the 6.8-magnitude earthquake in Elazığ on Jan. 24, Kınık asked everyone to donate 10 Turkish Liras, prompting a debate on the usage of earthquake taxes, as well as the amount of previous donations to the organization.

The report of Jan. 28 adds fuel to the fire, with thousands asking the reason for why Başkent Gaz donated money to the Ensar Foundation through Red Crescent instead of directly transferring it.

“Is it because to be exempt from tax?” asked opposition İYİ (Good) Party deputy Aytun Çıray – a question that was asked to Kınık late on Jan. 29.

“To evade tax is different from avoiding tax. The difference is that in one of them, the state legally grants you a privilege,” Kınık said.

Another document regarding donations made to Red Crescent was reported by daily Birgün on Jan. 30, which showed that donations significantly increased after Kınık assumed duty in 2016.

The donations received during Kınık’s three-year-term is 32 times higher than the previous administration, the daily said.

Meanwhile, Engin Altay, the group deputy chairman of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), has slammed the Red Crescent for acting as a mediator in tax evasion.

“We know that [President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan and the AKP are interested in Ensar and similar other foundations. They can give as much money as they wish to these foundations, but allocating the state’s money to this foundation through the Red Crescent is unacceptable,” Altay said on Jan. 30.