Turkey 'fares worse than Belize in judicial independence'

Turkey has fallen behind Belize in terms of judicial independence, CHP spokesperson Faik Öztrak has said, as he commented on the case of shady Turkish businessman Sezgin Baran Korkmaz.

CHP spokesperson Faik Öztrak shows a picture of Jacob Kingston, Sezgin Baran Korkmaz, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Çağlar Şendil.

Duvar English

Main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) spokesperson Faik Öztrak has slammed the Turkish judiciary when he commented on the case of the shady Turkish tycoon Sezgin Baran Korkmaz, who is currently under arrest in Austria. 

Öztrak on June 21 said that Korkmaz's business partner Lev Aslan Dermen, previously Levon Termendzhyan, tried to obtain Belize citizenship, but was prevented from doing so when it was revealed that he bribed a minister for it. 

"Belize's parliament and judiciary were outraged and the minister lost his post," Öztrak said, while asking how he obtained Turkish citizenship. 

"How did Levon Termendzhyan, Sezgin Baran Korkmaz's business partner, become Lev Aslan Dermen in Turkey? How did this person get Turkish citizenship?" he asked, while holding a picture of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Korkmaz, Jacob Kingston and businessman Çağlar Şendil dated 2017. 

"It hurts us that Turkey's parliament and judiciary couldn't do what Belize's parliament and judiciary did." 

The United States will seek to extradite Korkmaz from Austria so he can appear before a U.S. judge in Utah, where he is facing charges of conspiring to commit money laundering and wire fraud, the U.S. Justice Department said on June 21.

Korkmaz laundered more than $133 million in fraud proceeds through bank accounts that he controlled in Turkey and Luxembourg, the Justice Department said in a statement.

Korkmaz, it said, was arrested in Austria on June 19 at the department's request following the unsealing of a superseding indictment charging him with conspiracy to commit money laundering, wire fraud and obstruction of an official proceeding.

The businessman is also being investigated by Turkey, where prosecutors in December detained 10 executives working at Korkmaz's companies, after Turkey's Financial Crimes Investigation Board (MASAK) said the companies were used for money laundering.

Korkmaz, the owner of SBK Holding, is accused by Turkey of money laundering via transferring the income he obtained in the U.S. illegally to the companies he owns and its employees.

The money laundered in question is reportedly part of a decade-long scheme to defraud the U.S. of at least $500 million.

In September last year, prosecutors in Utah submitted a list of properties belonging to Jacob and Isaiah Kingston, also known as the Mormon crime brothers who are Korkmaz's business partners, to a U.S. court, asking for them to be retrieved, including a number of companies and real estates in Turkey.

The Kingston brothers pled guilty last year to a $500-million fraud of a government biofuel programme, which lasted nearly a decade. They transferred over $133 million in fraudulent proceeds to companies in Turkey and Luxembourg on the instructions of Armenian-Turkish businessman Lev Aslan Dermen, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Korkmaz then made various investments and bought companies between 2014 and 2018.

Dermen was convicted of several counts of conspiracy and money laundering in March and was allegedly the person who financed SBK Holding’s activities in Turkey by partnering with the Kingston Brothers.