Turkey puts clauses in bilateral friendship and development cooperation agreements, particularly with underdeveloped and African countries, that give diplomatic and financial benefit to the employees of the state institutions which carry out the secret Islamist agenda of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, including covert intelligence operations, a Nordic Monitor study has found.
One of these institutions is the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TİKA), a state institution that works to elevate Erdogan’s image, especially among poor Muslim and African countries, with humanitarian aid and the joint projects it finances. TİKA, which actually operates like a ruling party organization, is specifically named as the implementing authority in the many cooperation agreements Turkey has signed with these countries.
These bilateral agreements not only authorize TİKA to open an office in a foreign country but also allow TIKA employees to serve as diplomatic personnel, enjoying immunity and free movement. For instance, TİKA employees will benefit from the privileges and immunities accorded to diplomatic missions and diplomatic agents in the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations according to the cooperation agreement signed with Chad, which was approved by Erdoğan last week. The same articles are included in similar agreements signed with other African countries. Earlier agreements Nordic Monitor reviewed do not include a clause on the diplomatic immunity of TİKA or related agency personnel. TİKA personnel and their families are also exempt from all kinds of taxes in countries where the agreements are signed.
TİKA is a highly controversial organization that is frequently portrayed as the long arm of Erdoğan abroad. Nordic Monitor previously reported how the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) recruited spies using nongovernmental organizations including TİKA. According to a well-placed government insider, MIT planted operatives in several key government agencies that deal with Turks and non-Turkish Muslim communities abroad to run the vetting and recruitment program. The agencies that were used for covert intelligence operations are identified as TİKA and the Presidency for Turks Abroad, and Related Communities (YTB) diaspora agency.
“First, assets that were selected as candidates for future operatives were hired on a temporary contract basis by government agencies such as YTB, TİKA and others. Once a determination was made that they would be valuable to the spy agency, they were transferred to MIT and put permanently on the payroll,” the source said.
Turkish intelligence chief Hakan Fidan runs clandestine operations in Central Asia and the Caucasus through a relative he had planted at TIKA, Nordic Monitor had earlier learned. According to a source, Fidan has been masking covert operations through his brother-in-law Ali Özgün Öztürk, who is in charge of the TIKA Department for Central Asia and the Caucasus. A review of Öztürk’s travel itinerary shows that he is certainly no ordinary aid and development worker. He has been creating a network of informants in foreign countries and gaining access to officials using his development, aid and culture work.
Last February Nordic Monitor revealed that TİKA illegally transferred money allocated from discretionary funds to its office in Gaza for the use of Hamas by way of official trips. TİKA employees who made official visits to Gaza to monitor ongoing projects were paid a travel allowance from secret discretionary funds and they left all the cash at TİKA’s office in Gaza without getting a receipt upon the order of their supervisors.
Given the fact that TİKA is using discretionary funds that are exempt from a Court of Accounts audit, Nordic Monitor learned that systematic corruption is the normal way of doing business at TİKA. The projects are overestimated on paper so that a small portion of the budget is the actual expense and the rest of the money is shared by bureaucrats at every level.