Then-prime minister and current Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan secretly hosted Yasin al-Qadi, an Egyptian-born Saudi national who was at one time flagged by the US Treasury and the UN al-Qaida sanctions committee, at his private residence in Istanbul.
According to a confidential investigation launched into al-Qadi’s corrupt business dealings in Turkey that involved Erdoğan’s son Bilal and son-in-law Berat Albayrak, Turkish investigators uncovered a secret meeting between al-Qadi and Erdoğan. Tipped off about the meeting in wiretaps authorized by the court, police in the financial crimes unit tracked al-Qadi’s cell phone signals.
The cell tower signals obtained from the mobile GSM operator show that the Turkish phone number +90 536 330 8853 used by al-Qadi when he was in Turkey were transmitted from a cell tower near Erdoğan’s home in Üsküdar. Police officers Hüseyin Tokgöz and İsa Kara Yiğit documented al-Qadi’s presence with cellular data maps and handed the evidence over to the prosecutor.
Al-Qadi was on the UN and US lists and was barred by law from entering Turkey or investing in any business pursuant to UN Security Council resolutions 1267 and 1989 concerning al-Qaeda and associated individuals and entities when many secret meetings were held between Erdoğan and al-Qadi. Erdoğan’s chief of cabinet Hasan Doğan arranged the meetings, and at times Hakan Fidan, the head of Turkish intelligence agency MIT, took part.
Surveillance record documenting a secret meeting between Erdoğan and Yasin al-Qadi:yasin_al-Qadi_Erdogan
Al-Qadi and Erdoğan family members were leading suspects in a corruption investigation pursued by prosecutors in Istanbul and were the subjects of detention warrants issued on December 25, 2013 by the prosecutors. However, Erdoğan stepped in, illegally preventing the execution of the warrants by ordering the police to ignore the prosecutors’ orders. After the removal of the prosecutors and police chiefs who were involved in the investigation, Erdoğan managed to whitewash the crimes of his associates.
Furious over the revelation of the secret meeting with al-Qadi in his home, Erdoğan ordered the dismissal and imprisonment of police officers Tokgöz and Yiğit, who had documented the meeting with a cellular map. In a sham trial, Yiğit was sentenced to 19 years, six months in prison on December 24, 2018, while Tokgöz received 10 years, six months for simply executing court warrants for the surveillance of al-Qadi.
President Erdoğan repeatedly made supportive remarks about al-Qadi and defended his advisors and party members’ relationship with the Saudi businessman, saying: “I know al-Qadi, and I believe in him as much as I believe in myself. He is a benevolent lover of Turkey and has investments here. It is impossible that he is connected to terrorism.”
The investigation further revealed that al-Qadi and Erdoğan had discussed policy with respect to Syria and Egypt and how to shore up the Muslim Brotherhood.
Al-Qadi was later removed from the UN list, followed by the US Treasury delisting his name, although the controversy over his dealings has lingered ever since.