Cihan Ekşioğlu, an operative who was alleged to be an intermediary between the Turkish president’s ruling political party and mafia groups in Turkey and abroad has been put in the spotlight with recent revelations by mobster Sedat Peker, a former ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Ekşioğlu’s name came up in connection with shady business and political deals struck at the five-star luxury resort and hotel complex that used to be known as Paramount in Turkey’s tourist destination of Bodrum. The resort, taken over by Ekşioğlu allegedly under pressure and threats from its ailing owner, Atilla Uras, had also become a venue for money laundering activities for global mafia groups. A similar scheme is reportedly being run under new ownership.
The resort was originally named Golden Savoy when it was first launched in 2014 by its late founder, Uras. It was renamed Paramount under Ekşioğlu and his friend Sezgin Baran Korkmaz, a racketeer who is wanted in the US on charges of money laundering in the millions of dollars and wire fraud and was recently arrested in Austria on an outstanding US warrant.
Turkish businessman Şaban Kayıkçı, also very close to President Erdoğan, is the new owner of the resort. According to trade registry filings, Kayıkçı established a hotel management firm under the name of Bodrum Otel İşletmeleri Anonim Şirketi (aka Duja) in October 2019. The hotel is run by the firm under the brand name of Be Premium Bodrum.
A quick accumulation of wealth and assets that Ekşioğlu garnered from a vast array of business interests from defense to intelligence indicate that he has a big brother watching over him in the Turkish government. That brother is no other than the Turkish president himself, who cleared hurdles for Ekşioğlu and helped him cut through the red tape in the bureaucracy to obtain government favors and perks.
It was reported that Ekşioğlu himself helped bring Botir Rakhimov, (aka Batyr Bukharsky, or Bahtiyar İkramoğlu in Turkish), an Uzbek national and a mobster in a Russian mafia network, to Turkey and obtain Turkish citizenship for him in a 10 million euro bribery scheme. Rakhimov, wanted in Spain for money laundering on behalf of the Russian mafia, was using the resort to launder money.
According to Uras’s daughter Yasemin Victoria Uras, the Paramount resort was handed over Rakhimov under a con scheme that led to a lawsuit in Turkey and debt collection procedures. Ekşioğlu raided the resort with a tank, according to Victoria, on June 26, 2018, the day her father died under suspicious circumstances. Rakhimov was still a shareholder of the resort, although Ekşioğlu and later Korkmaz were still effectively managing it. According to Victoria, Rakhimov is wanted by the FBI and listed in the INTERPOL database as a man who is being sought.
Under the management of Ekşioğlu and Korkmaz, the resort became a meeting venue for senior judges, businesspeople, journalists, politicians and other influential figures who conspired to commit crimes in Turkey. Some of the people who were revealed to have been guests with all expenses paid and accommodations included İsmail Demir, the head of the Presidency of the Defense Industry (SSB), a top government body that decides on the procurement of military equipment and helps develop defense industry infrastructure. Demir was sanctioned by the US State Department in April 2021 in response to Ankara’s refusal to abandon its Russian S-400 anti-aircraft system.
Esat Toklu, the chief judge of the Ankara Regional Administrative Appeals Court, journalists Cem Küçük, Veyis Ateş and Rasim Ozan Kütahyalı, who were involved in racketeering, all stayed in this luxury hotel with all expenses paid. Cihat Yaycı, a former admiral who helped President Erdoğan purge most pro-NATO officers from the military, was also a guest at the hotel.
Ekşioğlu has earned a reputation in Ankara circles that he is the man to go to if you want to fix legal problems, obtain government contracts or tenders and facilitate all sorts of business dealings in government agencies. His website is full of pictures of him with top officials including Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu; Urban and Environment Minister Murat Kurum; İsmail Rüştü Cirit, the then-head of the top criminal appeals court; and former Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım.
Rumor has it that he is also close to Turkish intelligence agency (MIT) chief Hakan Fidan, and the two even have some sort of family ties as well. He was alleged to have been involved in arms trade in Syria and Libya, developed spy software especially for monitoring social media for the Turkish government. He claimed to have sold tracking and data analysis software to the intelligence agency. Some say he brags about his connections to promote himself in business and political circles.
“[O]ur job in the defense industry is to sell military equipment to areas where there’s more chaos and war. For example, two years ago I sold maybe 130 containers of supplies to Libya. Some 1,630 containers a year may be small, but in a country where there is war, it’s a large amount of military equipment,” he said in an interview with Klass magazine on June 30, 2017.
He underlined that his trade has been coordinated with the Turkish government and is aimed at supporting the policies of President Erdoğan. “Of course, we don’t trade with a country that has a a conflict of interest with our government. In principle we don’t involve ourselves in such deals. And when something goes wrong, we go and report it [to the Erdoğan government],” he noted.
The luxury resort helped him secure connections not only with government officials but also with celebrities whose pictures were used for Ekşioğlu’s public relations campaign. He was seen with Steven Seagal and Jean Claude Van Damme, while his buddy Rakhimov posed with Nicole Kidman, all of whom stayed at the resort as guests of the owners.
Most of his business dealings are done via EKBA Holding Anonim Şirketi, established in June 2015 with Ekşioğlu as chairman. He also owns a number of firms, all relatively newly established companies under his name or through partnership with others. They include construction firm Cek Yapı İnşaat Mimarlik Sanayi ve Ticaret Limited Şirketi, defense technologies firm Ice Savunma Teknolojileri Sanayi ve Ticaret Anonim Şirketi, renewable energy firm Hakan Yenilenebilir Enerji Yatirimlari Sanayi ve Ticaret Anonim Şirketi, construction firm EKS İstanbul Yapı Taahhüt Sanayi ve Ticaret Anonim Şirketi, military technology and research firm Harp Arge Sanayi ve Ticaret Anonim Şirketi and a defense contractor CEMD Savunma Sanayi ve Ticaret Anonim Şirketi
In an interview with Europenewsport , Ekşioğlu underlined that he works with President Erdoğan whose wishes are very important for him. He said his firms are involved in national defense projects such as manufacturing drones, planes, tanks and ships.
Trade registry filing for Ekşioğlu’s construction firm EKS İstanbul Yapı Taahhüt Sanayi ve Ticaret Anonim Şirketi, set up under his brother’s name.EKS_establishment_record
He is married to a Belarusian woman but allegedly had an affair with a woman named Songül Bayram, whom he convinced to invest in his construction firm EKS İstanbul Yapı Taahhüt Sanayi ve Ticaret Anonim Şirketi, established under the name of his brother, Candan Baki Ekşioğlu, and four others in August 2011. Bayram became chairman of the board in October 2013.
When the two had a falling out, Ekşioğlu allegedly blackmailed Bayram with a threat to leak intimate photos and videos from their affair. He had allegedly battered her, ran surveillance and wiretapped her phone, effectively turning her life into hell. In the end Bayram had to turn over her shares in CEMD and EKS Istanbul to Burak Başlılar, a caretaker and trusted man of Ekşioğlu, in January 2015. A luxury housing project in Bodrum, Selen Vadi Konakları, with a price tag of 750,000 euros for each villa, was seized from Bayram.
Songül Bayram became chairwoman of EKS İstanbul Yapı Taahhüt Sanayi ve Ticaret Anonim Şirketi in 2013:EKS_songul_bayram_chairman_2013
Songül Bayram left the company two years later:EKS_songul_bayram_left_2015
Another notorious figure Ekşioğlu was in bed with is a man named Levent Bektaş, former major who was convicted of membership in a clandestine neo-nationalist gang in the past. Ekşioğlu turned over the defense firm CEMD he established in February 2016 with his brother Canan to Bektaş, who became general manager in March 2016. The evidence collected from Bektaş office during the execution of a search and seizure warrant in April 2009 revealed that Bektaş was involved in a secret plan to assassinate prominent non-Muslim figures in Turkey. He was arrested in connection to a large cache of munitions — 21 light anti-tank weapons (LAW), 14 grenades, 24 explosive fuses and 450 grams of C3 explosives — unearthed in İstanbul’s Poyrazköy district.
Levent Bektaş, a former major and a convicted felon, became manager of Ekşioğlu’s defense firm:CEMD_Levent_Bektas
Although Bektaş was convicted and sentenced to prison, the Erdoğan government intervened in his case and helped him get out of jail in January 2014. Bektaş left the position at CEMD in April 2017 and according to trade registry records, established own defense firm, CCSS Danişmanlik ve Güvenlik Sistemleri Anonim Şirketi, in December 2019 with his partner Erdal Çerçi.
Levent Bektaş set up his own defense and security firm in 2019:Levent_Bektas_new_firm
Serdar Ekşioğlu, the husband of one of Erdoğan’s nieces and claimed to be the brother of Cihan Ekşioğlu, was exposed by Turkish mobster Peker as a facilitator in sending illegal arms and supplies to armed jihadist groups in Syria. In a recorded FaceTime conversation with Serdar Ekşioğlu, Peker got him to admit on the record that he was personally involved in sending arms under the guise of humanitarian aid to Syria in cooperation with SADAT, a private defense contractor run by the Turkish president’s former chief military advisor.
The brother was also accused of funneling funds to Turkish gangs in Germany in support of Erdoğan’s campaign of intimidation against diaspora Turks and Kurds who were critical of him.
Despite serious allegations against him, Ekşioğlu has kept his silence and never commented on the accusations about his shady business activities.
Şaban Kayıkçı, another Erdogan ally, currently operates a luxury resort in Bodrum:Saban_Kayikci_Duja_hotel