A top operative for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s long arm in Europe, groomed as a far-right nationalist in his youth in Germany, runs multiple businesses in Turkey and has connections to radical Islamist politicians in the country, a Nordic Monitor investigation has found.
According to a review of trade registry filings, Köksal Kuş, president of the Union of International Democrats (UID, formerly UETD), an organization that functions as a foreign interest group on behalf of the Erdoğan government abroad, has expanded his business dealings in Turkey.
He worked closely with Erdoğan confidant Metin Külünk, who was investigated for his links to armed and radical Islamist groups in Turkey and helped establish the UID in Europe.
Listing a number of his relatives as partners, caretakers and shareholders in his firms, Kuş has managed his business interests as a Turkish national, never mentioning his ties to Germany in his filings. Once he had cultivated enough political capital with Turkish government officials, he ventured into the energy sector and secured a license from a Turkish regulatory body although he and his firms had no experience in energy production.
The company’s data according to the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce:Kus_energy
One of the businesses owned by Kuş and his relatives is an energy and construction company named Kuş Enerji Sanayi ve Ticaret Limited Şirketii. The company had nothing to do with the energy sector when it was first set up on December 8, 2010 as a trading and agriculture firm with a capital of 100,000 Turkish lira. It listed two relatives of Kuş as the founders; however, only 12 days after its establishment, Kuş took over the company and became general manager. According to trade registry declarations, it was mainly involved in the trade of dry goods and grain.
In February 2012 İrfan Gündüz, an academic-turned-politician, joined the firm as a partner. Gündüz had held senior positions in the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), served in parliament as deputy parliamentary group chairman for the AKP, and currently holds the title of chairman of the board of trustees of İbn Haldun University, which was established by Erdoğan’s family. Bilal Erdoğan, the Turkish president’s younger son, is listed as Gündüz’s deputy on the board.
Kuş’s tactic of bringing a heavyweight like Gündüz with close ties to Erdoğan’s family into the firm appears to have paid off. In February 2013 the company changed its name to Kuş Enerji Sanayi ve Ticaret Limited Şirketi and declared in its filings that it would be involved in the energy business and build power plants. Its capital was increased to 3 million Turkish lira. It was a quite a radical change for the company, which was venturing into an area in which it had no prior experience. It was most likely that Kuş was banking on his political connections to make money.
Kuş turned his firm into an energy company according to a trade registry filing:Kus_agro_firm_turned_into_energy
Kuş’s network in the Erdoğan government has apparently paid off. A license for a 5,373 MW capacity hydroelectric power plant project in Gümüşhane was granted by the Energy Market Regulatory Authority (EPDK). The decision issued by the EPDK on September 10, 2020 showed that he obtained a license for electricity production for 49 years under the project name of “Dırağa Reg. ve HES.”
The web page of the Kuş energy firm does not have much information other than several pages that mention the hydroelectric power plant project. It lists Kuş and his relatives as founders. In an interview with local newspaper Gümüşhane Olay in March 2021, he claimed that the power plant was finished and would soon be be producing electricity.
In October 2020 Gündüz sold his shares and left the company. The latest filing registered with the Chamber of Commerce in January 2021 shows that Kuş is still a partner in the firm and has the authority to represent and conduct all sorts of transactions for the company.
Another firm owned by him is Kuş Inşaat, Dograma, Isı Sistemleri, Fotografçılik Sanayi ve Ticaret Limited Şirketi, a general trading company that is involved in operations such as photography, heating and construction. It was established by Kuş and his relatives back in October 1998. The company is still active and run by Kuş’s family members.
Although Kuş came from an ultranationalist background, he apparently saw opportunities in involvement with President Erdoğan and his ruling AKP. He filed an application to run for election on the AKP ticket in 2015 and wanted to fill the spot assigned for the European constituency in national elections. He was unsuccessful in his bid.
Kuş’s second firm in Turkey:Kus_second_firm
He had worked for the UID until he became the president in January 2021 and was mainly involved in the organizational structure, helping set up new branches and recruiting new operatives across Europe. After taking over the UID as president, he met with President Erdoğan and a number of government and AKP officials who promised to put Turkish government resources at his disposal for advancing the political goals set up for the UID. Using his new position, Kuş has been traveling all over the world, expanding UID operations further as a proxy group for Erdoğan.
Kuş, 59, moved to Germany when he was 17. He had been involved in violent Turkish nationalist group the Grey Wolves and served in various capacities with the Almanya Ülkücü Türk Dernekler Federasyonu, the German arm of Turkey’s far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), in the 1990s. He had been vice president of the UID between 2013 and 2016 and continued his activities as a member of the UID’s executive committee until January 2021.
While trying to expand the UID across Europe, Kuş had worked closely with Külünk, a long-time confidant of President Erdoğan who had run an armed Islamist faction in the late ’70s and early ’80s in Turkey. In 2007 he was red flagged by Turkish investigators who investigated him as a suspect in Islamist terrorist group the Great Eastern Islamic Raiders Front (İslami Büyük Doğu Akıncıları Cephesi, İBDA/C or IBDA-C).
Külünk managed to stay out of legal trouble thanks to his friend Erdoğan, who had managed to squelch probes in Turkey but could not escape the scrutiny of the German authorities. In 2017 an investigative report by German police linked Ankara to a boxing gang in Germany accused of going after opponents of the Turkish government. According to the investigation former lawmaker and Erdoğan’s long-time friend Külünk provided money to a boxing gang, Osmanen Germania, in Germany to buy weapons, organize protests and go after critics of the Erdoğan government, German media reported. Police investigations also suggested Osmanen Germania had contact with the UID.
Kuş currently operates under the authority of AKP Deputy Chairman Efkan Ala, a former interior minister who runs overseas operations for the ruling party. Ala supervised the UID election in January 2021 when Kuş was elected its president.