A prominent Turkish businessman known for his secular and ultranationalist world view allegedly sought help from the Turkish president to resolve a dispute with a business associate that was taken to court, Nordic Monitor has learned.
İnan Kıraç, a businessman and member of the Koç family, which owns Turkey’s largest business conglomerate, is accused of asking Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to act as an intermediary in resolving his business problems with new partner and notorious businessman Sezgin Baran Korkmaz. The share sale and purchase agreement between the partners show that the problem was resolved as Kıraç wanted since Korkmaz left the partnership.
Allegations that Kıraç got rid of his business partner as a result of Erdoğan’s efforts surfaced in January; however, very little was known until Sedat Peker, a former ally of Erdoğan and a convicted gang leader, revealed new information in his ninth YouTube video that was viewed by more than 11 million people on Sunday. Peker claimed that Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu was also involved in putting Korkmaz out of the game.
In September 2020 Korkmaz paid $82 million for a Luxembourg-based company called Silcolux, which owned 45 percent of Kıraça Holding, established by Kıraç, which manufactures mainly commercial vehicles in Turkey. Silcolux previously belonged to Kıraç’s ex-partners, with whom he had serious financial and trade problems.
Even though Kıraç got rid of his old associates, he was not happy with his new partner, Korkmaz, who was allegedly involved in a money-laundering scheme with Jacob and Isaiah Kingston, owners and executives of a biodiesel company in Salt Lake City, Utah. The brothers pleaded guilty in the United States to creating fake records to get $511 million in tax credits from 2010 through 2016. According to the US Department of Justice, more than $134 million was transferred to Korkmaz’s companies in Turkey and Luxembourg.
Assuming his commercial reputation would be damaged, Kıraç asked Korkmaz to sell Silcolux to him, but he refused on the grounds that Kıraç offered him less than the market value. Moreover, Korkmaz filed a $45 million lawsuit claiming that Kıraç’s holding had a previous debt to Silcolux. It was claimed at the time that Korkmaz had a high probability of winning the suit.
When Kıraç was unable to convince Korkmaz to sell his company and faced with a lawsuit, he sought help from President Erdoğan, whom he knew had a close relationship with Korkmaz. Erdoğan then tasked Soylu with convincing Korkmaz.
Peker claims that Korkmaz and Soylu met for two hours at the ministry in Ankara on December 4, 2020 and that Soylu warned Korkmaz he was being investigated and asked him to abandon his lawsuit. According to Peker, Korkmaz fled the country the next day, and a detention warrant was issued for him as part of a probe into the laundering of $134 million. Peker called on authorities to check the security footage to determine if Korkmaz had visited the interior ministry before leaving the country.
On February 25 Kıraç’s lawyer, Levent Göktaş, announced that all disputes between Kıraç and Korkmaz were resolved. Moreover, with the agreement signed, Korkmaz agreed to transfer the Silcolux shares to Kıraça Holding, meaning that 100 percent of Kıraça Holding would be owned by Kıraç.
Before Korkmaz fled Turkey, a court decision to freeze his assets was revoked so that Korkmaz could sell his companies and take his money abroad. After he exited Turkey, his assets were again frozen.
On December 29, 2020 Turkish prosecutors issued a detention warrant for Korkmaz for his links to the Kingston brothers’ business activities. According to the pro-government media, Korkmaz’s home in Istanbul was also raided by the police.
Kıraç had previously played an important role in a change of management in the foundation that owned the secular Cumhuriyet daily in 2018. Under the new management, Cumhuriyet supported Erdoğan’s witch hunt against his critics and even the daily’s former staff. Some Cumhuriyet employees were tried and imprisoned on bogus terrorism charges. Kıraç also testified against the defendants in their trials.