Corruption,  Turkey

Was Berat Albayrak picked as sacrificial offering in the oil trade with the ISIL?

This is a cross-post from As Turkey Sleeps.

As Italian prosecutor Manuela Cavallo’s launching an investigation into money laundering claims about Bilal Erdogan, who recently moved to the Italian city of Bologna with his family, made it into news reports, another initiative, the Russian Federation kicked off at the United Nations, has raised the possibility of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s son-in-law Berat Albayrak’s being tried at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague on charges of aiding and abetting the terrorist organization Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).  In a letter it sent to the UN Secretary General and the UN Security Council Member States on January 29, 2016, the Russian Federation provided detailed information regarding the illegal oil trade between the ISIL and the individuals, organizations and firms close to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).  Titled “ISIL’s illegal oil trade”, the letter contains serious accusations about Turkey.  It argues that majority of the ISIL-controlled hydrocarbon is transferred via Turkey and oil products are carried into the Turkish soil mainly through border crossings Karkamış, Akçakale, Cilvegözü and Öncüpınar.  The letter reads:

“Everyday 100-150 oil tankers pass through these checkpoints.  Moreover, crude oil is carried through rural paths that are not controlled by Turkish security forces.  A total of 4,500 vehicles are used to this end.”

The letter also claims that several Turkish firms such as Seri Otomotiv, owned by Mustafa Seri in Konya, and Sam Otomotiv, owned by Habib Haydaroğlu in Antakya, play a role in providing the ISIL with vehicles.  It is maintained that the majority of the crude oil smuggled out of the ISIL-controlled areas is transported to the Turkish Petroleum Refineries Corporation’s (TÜPRAŞ) refinery in Batman while a small portion of it is processed at small facilities in Turkey and distributed by the filling stations of the firms like “Opet Nizig, Alpet, Kadoil, Oneoil, Teco Alacalı and Mavigöl Gaz.”  Underlining that those who sell illegal oil products in Gaziantep, Sanliurfa, Kahramanmaras, Kilis and Hatay have secured protection from local authorities, the letter suggests that a significant portion of oil is shipped from the Turkish ports on the Mediterranean coasts, particularly from Ceyhan.  The letter says:

“The tankers of ‘BMZ Grup Denizcilik ve İnşaat A.Ş.’ are used in the transportation. The firm was established in 2013; its registered capital is around $1 million and its head office is located at ‘Gürgen Sokak No. 3, Üsküdar’. The firm’s fleet consists of five tankers: Mecid Aslanov, Begim Aslanova, Poet Qabil, Armada Fair and Armada Breeze.” In the letter, it is alleged that the firm Powertrans, affiliated with Çalık Holding, where President Erdogan’s son-in-law Berat Albayrak was the General Manager, played a role in the oil trade with the ISIL. In addition, it is noted that Turkish Petroleum International Company made a deal with Kurdish business from northern Iraq with guarantees from the Turkish government and oil production and processing projects are currently being undertaken in cooperation with the companies in the Kurdish Autonomous Region. “We have reasons to believe that this arrangement is an outlet for the ISIL to sell its energy sources. In cooperation with BOTAŞ, the TPAO and Genel Enerji are increasing their capacities for the crude oil that will come from Iraq and Syrian Arab Republic. In this context, the Yumurtalık oil station has been expanded to have a storage capacity of 1.7 million tons” it said. Pointing out that the crude oil so legalized in Turkey is sent to various parts of the world, making it difficult to keep track of it, the letter lists the other firms that are involved in the oil trade drilled from the ISIL-controlled areas as follows: “Palmali Shipping and Agency JSC (Turkey), General Energy (United Kingdom and Turkey) and Saudi Aramco (Saudi Arabia).”

The letter maintains that the ISIL uses the revenues from this oil trade to acquire weapons, military equipment, explosives, and ammunition among others while the donations from various individuals and Islamic organizations in some Gulf countries and Turkey constitute another source of income for the ISIL and the ISIL’s military council can secure more than $30 million every month in this way. It states that terrorists use Turkish territories effectively also for distribution of illegal weapons and explosives and they are abided by some associations and foundations in Turkey.  The letter puts forward that the number of oil-carrying vehicles from Turkey to Syrian Arab Republic rose by nine-fold between 2012 and 2015 and 400 vehicles worth of around $7.2 million have been procured in four years and the amount of supply for the first nine months of 2015 is expected to be $3.2 million.  In the letter, it is also argued that weapons and explosives are sent to the ISIL through uncontrolled parts of Syrian Arab Republic’s common borders with Turkey and Iraq and that Syria’s border crossings Bab al-Hawa (10 kilometers southeast of Reyhanli), Bab el-Selam (6 kilometres northeast of Azez) and Cerablus (105 kilometres northeast of Aleppo) are used for arms and explosives shipments from Turkey.  It is true that everyone is innocent until proven guilty, but the fact that Berat Albayrak is the only person from AKP government whose name is highly affiliated with the most violent terror organization (ISIL) has been recently appointed as Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, raising questions that he has been deliberately sacrificed for this purpose-filled position.

An extensive recent report published by WSJ into ISIL’s financial activities in Turkey ( …) reinforces these allegations.