An investigation has been launched into Azeri-Turkish billionaire Mübariz Mansimov Gurbanoğlu, with whom the family of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan formed a business relationship over many years, over his suspected links to the Gülen network, which the Turkish government refers to as the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ).
Gurbanoğlu denied the charges on his social media account and said he was the victim of “a slander,” online news portal OdaTV reported on Feb. 8.
Various media outlets had previously unveiled the relationship between the Erdoğan family business and Gurbanoğlu, the chairman of the Istanbul-headquartered shipping conglomerate Palmali Group.
Daily Sözcü had reported in 2015 that the Palmali Group had leased three ships from shipping company BMZ Group, which is owned by President Erdoğan’s son Bilal Erdoğan. Also, the newspaper had said that a company owned by President Erdoğan’s brother Mustafa Erdoğan and his brother-in-law Ziya İlgen was conducting business with the Palmali Group.
Separately, based on documents leaked from a Malta-based provider of legal, financial and corporate services, various reports claimed in 2017 that the Erdoğan family purchased a $25 million-worth oil and chemicals tanker called the Agdash in 2008 through an offshore company in the Isle of Man alled Bumerz Limited – named after its principal owners: the president’s son Burak Erdoğan, Mustafa Erdoğan and Ziya İlgen.
The company allegedly received two loans to pay for the tanker, but the Erdoğans never paid them. The $7 million of the Agdash sale was paid by Erdoğan’s close friend Sıtkı Ayan, whereas the remaining was paid by paid by Gurbanoğlu — for reasons which have been never explained.
As for what Gurbanoğlu gained from this deal, journalist Craig Shaw wrote in 2017 on the investigative news site “The Black Sea” as follows: “While there is no evidence of a direct quid pro quo with Erdoğan, there are many indications that Mansimov [Gurbanoğlu] received the goodwill of the Turkish government after the trade, when his business in Turkey picked up significantly, in 2008.”
Today in Turkey, Gurbanoğlu is a business polymath, with interests in healthcare, energy, construction, tourism, airliners and luxury cars.