The Turkish Interior Ministry on June 25 confirmed that Minister Süleyman Soylu used a plane belonging to shady businessman Sezgin Baran Korkmaz's Borajet airline company during the 2017 referendum campaign.
The ministry's statement came in response to a news report in daily Cumhuriyet which said that Soylu treated Borajet's luxurious TC-YYA Bombardier type plane like “a private taxi,” using it extensively, especially during the 2017 referendum campaign period.
The rental service had a price of 15,000 euros for each flight, the news report said.
The Interior Ministry said that the cost of the rental services had been covered by Soylu's private insurance company “Engin Sigorta," sharing the receipts of bills totaling 165,808 liras ($44,000).
The ministry said that although Soylu was authorized to use the government's own planes and helicopters during this time period, he did not do so “due to electoral prohibitions and political ethics.”
It said that Soylu's firm had in fact struck a deal with the aviation company called “Söğüt Havacılık” for rental services, but since the company “ran out of planes,” it received outsourcing services from Borajet.
“It is a widely known situation that when plane or rental companies do not have a plane under their disposal at the moment, they meet their customers' demand by receiving rental services from another company,” the ministry said.
The new revelation came among allegations that Soylu had warned Korkmaz last year to flee Turkey to avoid prosecution.
Korkmaz was detained by Austrian police on June 19 reportedly upon Washington's request.
A statement released by the U.S. Justice Department earlier this week said that Korkmaz spent $133 million obtained illegally from U.S. taxpayers to buy the Borajet, hotels in Turkey and Switzerland, a yacht named the Queen Anne and a villa and an apartment on the Bosphorus in Istanbul.
The U.S. indictment accuses Korkmaz of having laundered the money via bank accounts in Turkey and Luxembourg.