US seeks extradition of shady Turkish business tycoon from Austria

The U.S. Justice Department has said that it will seek to extradite shady Turkish business tycoon Sezgin Baran Korkmaz from Austria so that he can stand a trial over charges of money laundering in Utah.

Duvar English

The United States will seek to extradite shady Turkish business tycoon Sezgin Baran Korkmaz from Austria so that he can face the money laundering charges in Utah, said U.S. Justice Department in a statement on June 21. 

"The United States will seek to extradite Korkmaz to the United States so that he can appear before U.S. District Judge Jill Parrish of the District of Utah to face these charges," the statement said.

The U.S. indictment accuses Korkmaz of having laundered over $133 million in fraud proceeds through bank accounts that he controlled in Turkey and Luxembourg.

"The proceeds allegedly related to a scheme by Jacob Kingston, Isaiah Kingston, and Levon Termendzhyan to defraud the U.S. Treasury by filing false claims for over $1 billion in refundable renewable fuel tax credits for the production and sale of biodiesel by their company, Washakie Renewable Energy LLC, in Plymouth, Utah," the U.S. Justice Department said. 

Korkmaz and co-conspirators allegedly used the proceeds from the alleged scheme to buy the Turkish airline Borajet, hotels in Turkey and Switzerland, a yacht named the Queen Anne and a villa and an apartment on the Bosphorus in Istanbul, the statement said.

If convicted in the United States, Korkmaz faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for the money laundering conspiracy count, 20 years in prison for each of the wire fraud counts, and five years in prison for the obstruction count, the statement said.

Korkmaz, who fled Turkey in December of last year, was detained by Austrian police on June 19 reportedly upon Washington's request. 

Korkmaz, the owner of SBK Holding, is accused by Turkey of money laundering worth $134 million 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 $134 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.

Utah prosecutors have added Korkmaz's assets, allegedly purchased with the laundered money, in Turkey to the ongoing case file, Voice of America's Turkish service reported on June 20. 

The prosecutors said that the assets must be transferred to the U.S. Treasury.