A Turkish associate of Alex Nain Saab Moran, indicted by the United States for helping the Venezuelan regime evade sanctions, was a guest at an event sponsored by the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has in recent years forged close ties with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.
According to a Nordic Monitor investigation, Veysel Altun, a Turkish businessman and resident of Switzerland who helped set up multiple shell companies in Turkey on Saab’s behalf, turned out to be connected to a Turkish overseas agency. He was even hosted in Istanbul at a business event subsidized by the Erdoğan government.
Altun was screened, vetted and added to the list of Turkish businesspeople abroad who can be trusted by the World Turkish Business Council (DTİK), a Turkish government initiative that was launched by the Foreign Economic Relations Board (DEİK), part of the Ministry of Commerce. He and his relative Bünyamin Altun attended the government event in Istanbul along with other Turkish businesspeople from all over the world.
Altun participated in the DTIK event as general manager for Swiss firm Racolas Holding AG. The event, held on March 26-27, 2016, featured President Erdoğan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu as keynote speakers and the participation of 486 firms run by Turks in 65 countries who came to Istanbul to listen to the Turkish leaders, expand their business network and strike deals.
Trade registry filing establishing the Mulberry Turkish firm in 2015:Mulbury_project_Investment_establishment_2015
Erdoğan’s speech at the event resembled Maduro’s anti-Western diatribes, full of accusations against the Western powers. He lashed out at foreign diplomats in Istanbul for attending the politically charged hearing of two journalists who were standing trial on false accusations because of an exposé of the Erdoğan government’s secret arms shipments to jihadists in Syria. “Who are you? What business do you have there? Diplomacy has a certain propriety and manners. This is not your country. This is Turkey,” an angry Erdoğan remarked.
Trade registry records show that Altun, whose Swiss address was listed as Earhartstrasse 13/31 Opfıkon/Switzerland, set up multiple companies in Turkey, with many listing their business locations at the same address, indicating that they were in fact front companies for shady business transactions. The records also note that they changed their addresses frequently and that the composition of the board and owners was reshuffled, with the same names controlling the operations.
Although the US indictment listed the Istanbul-based investment and project firm Mulberry Proje Yatırım Anonim Şirketi as linked to Saab, other Turkish firms were set up by Saab’s Turkish associate Altun to most likely pursue clandestine business dealings that covered multiple countries.
According to the trade flings, Mulberry was founded in Istanbul on May 5, 2015 by the similarly named UK firm Mulberry Capital Partners Limited, with its address declared as 45 Clarges, Mayfair London W 1J7EP, UK. Altun was the sole representative of the UK firm and conducted all business dealings of the Turkish Mulberry. Its capital was 50,000 Turkish lira ($19,000). Serenat Baytan Avkovan was listed as the registrar of the company.
On December 22, 2017 Turkish national Serkan Sarıkeçe was named chairman of the board of Mulberry for a term of three years, replacing the UK firm as the sole owner. However, it did not take long before a Venezuelan national named Betsy Desiree Mata Pereda was brought in as board chair on February 16, 2018 replacing Sarıkeçe, who was made a board member. On February 23, 2018 Mulberry UK once again became the sole shareholder.
The trade registry showed that Turkish Mulberry changed its name to Mulberry Proje ve Dış Ticaret Anonim Şirketi, reflecting the addition of foreign trade in almost all commercial goods as the field of its business activity. The company had moved its offices four times since it was established in 2015.
Another company managed by Altun on behalf of Saab was Marilyns Proje Yatırım Anonim Şirketi, also a project and investment firm, which was set up on May 2, 2014 in Istanbul. At one time, the company was located at the same address as Mulberry in the Beşiktaş district’s Cihannüma neighborhood, confirming that they were shell companies. Like Mulberry, the company’s startup capital was 50,000 Turkish lira and its owner was a UK firm bearing the same name, Marilyns Capital Limited, which was located at 45 Clarges Street, London WIJ 7EP, UK. Again Altun was the representative of the UK firm with all powers and privileges. Sarıkeçe was the general manager. Avkovan was involved with this firm as well.
Trade registry filing establishing the Marilyns Turkish firm in 2014:Marylins_establishement
On July 27, 2018 the company changed its name to include mining and foreign trade in its authorized business activity and became Marilyns Dış Ticaret Ve Madencilik Anonim Şirketi. An Italian national named Lorenzo Antonelli became chairman of the board. The sole owner was listed as Bünyamin Altun, who appears to be a relative of Veysel Altun and who declared his address as Rietgrabenstr. 64A 8152 Opfikon, Switzerland. On March 27, 2019 Turkish national Musa Göğer was made a member of the board and Antonelli’s position was terminated according to a declaration the company filed with the Chamber of Commerce.
The third Turkish company that seems to be connected to a web of companies Saab set up all over the world to run a sanctions-busting scheme on behalf of the Maduro regime is construction and project firm Glenmore Probe İnşaat Anonim Şirketi, established on May 7, 2015 by a UK firm of the same name, Glenmore Solutions Limited, at the same London address as Marilyns and Mulberry.
As had happened with Marilyns in July 2018, Glenmore also changed its name to Glenmore Dış Ticaret Ve Madencilik Anonim Şirketi and expanded its business portfolio to include mining and foreign trade. Another Italian national, Via Cenina, was brought in as a board member with all powers to represent the firm, according to company filings. Bünyamin became the sole owner but was replaced by the UK Glenmore in September 2018.
There were more Turkish companies owned and operated by Veysel Altun and his Turkish associates. Some of them were tourism and construction firms Bodrum Turizm Otelcilik Ve İnşaat Anonim Şirketi and Volia İnşaat Ve Turizm Anonim Şirketi; e-commerce business Emarketler Grubu Uluslararasi Elektronik Ve Ticaret Anonim Şirketi; consultancy firm Bsb Advisory Uluslararasi Danişmanlik Anonim Şirketi; project and investment firms Tarjeta Proje Yatirim Anonim Şirketi and Munroe Proje Yatirim Anonim Şirketi; and foreign trade firm Kinloch Diş Ticaret Anonim Şirketi.
The expansion of business activities with new names and additional portfolios by Saab’s Turkish firms came right after Maduro’s October 2017 meeting with Erdoğan during which multiple agreements were signed, paving the way or Venezuela to use Turkish territory to conduct controversial business activities including gold refining. More hastily arranged intergovernmental agreements were signed between the two countries when Erdoğan paid a visit to Maduro in December 2018.
Trade registry filing for the establishment of Glenmore Dış Ticaret Ve Madencilik Anonim Şirketi:Glenmore_UK_Veysel_Altun_establishment
A month after Erdoğan’s first-ever visit to Venezuela, Tareck El Aissami, Venezuela’s then-minister of industries and national production who was sanctioned by the US for his role in global narcotics and links to Iran and Hezbollah, came to Turkey and inspected the gold refineries. The growing alliance between the Erdoğan and Maduro governments apparently irritated the US, which started looking closely into the Venezuelan dictator’s activities in Turkey. In July 2019 Turkish Mulberry was sanctioned by the US Treasury along with the other web of companies run by Saab and his associates.
More revelations are expected to emerge on business dealings in Turkey when Saab, whose extradition to the US was approved by Cape Verde’s constitutional court on September 7, 2021, appears in a Miami court. He was arrested in June 2020 during a refueling stop in Cape Verde on a trip between Iran and Venezuela. He claimed immunity as a special envoy for the Maduro regime but failed to convince the judges in the West African nation.
In the meantime, no action was taken by the Erdoğan government to crack down on Saab’s Turkish network, which enjoys political cover from the Turkish leadership. All the companies Altun ran on behalf of Saab are still active according to the latest trade registry filings reviewed by Nordic Monitor.
According to the list of businesses invited by Turkish government agency DTIK in 2016 to an Istanbul event attended by the Turkish president, Altun was listed as representing a Swiss firm.DTIK_B2B_Listesi_