In yet another example of nepotism in his administration, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Saturday appointed a 36-year-old bureaucrat as deputy foreign minister, a position that became vacant after new appointments were made in the Turkish Foreign Ministry. The father of the new deputy minister is a long-time Erdoğan loyalist who manages the discretionary funding that is assigned to the presidential office.
Yasin Ekrem Serim most recently worked as director general for global and humanitarian affairs for two years, in addition to being chief of staff to Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu.
Serim’s father is well-known bureaucrat Maksut Serim, who is the presidential adviser responsible for the discretionary fund allocated to the presidency. He is also a board member at the state-owned Halkbank. Many advisors who work closely with Erdoğan are appointed as members of the boards of prestigious state-run companies so they can earn additional income. As a result Erdoğan keeps these companies under his control while filling the pockets of his cronies. For example the presidency’s director of communications, Fahrettin Altun, is a board member at the İstanbul Stock Exchange, while his academic wife is a board member at Turkish Airlines.
Erdoğan is often accused by the opposition of misusing the discretionary fund allocated primarily for the security of the state and emergencies. Maksut Serim serves the president in the use of the fund for political purposes and is surely privy to many of Erdoğan’s secrets.
According to official data the money spent from the discretionary fund in the first eight months of this year was TL 2.5 billion, an all-time record.
Maksut Serim came to public attention when he met with Ferhat Aydoğan, an associate of the notorious mafia leader Alaattin Çakıcı, who was released from prison thanks to the Erdoğan government.
According to reports in the Turkish press, Maksut Serim, who previously worked at the state-owned Vakıfbank, was sentenced to two years in prison for forging official documents when he issued a false diploma for himself.
After graduating in 2008 from Girne American University in northern Cyprus, a private university preferred by those who were unable to pass the entrance exam in Turkey or because it’s possible to study there without even taking an exam, Yasin Serim was appointed as adviser to Egemen Bağış, the then-minister of European Union affairs. Bağış was incriminated in an Iran sanctions busting scheme in 2013 and was removed from government for taking bribes in the millions of dollars from an Iranian operative.companies_house_document
Serim later became an advisor and chief of staff at the prime ministry and the presidency.
Becoming chief of staff at the Foreign Ministry in 2016, Serim has served as director general for global and humanitarian affairs for the last two years. The position of director in the ministry requires a long career in diplomacy; however, under a new presidential system introduced in 2018 giving Erdoğan sweeping powers, the practice of making promotions and appointments within the ministry has disappeared.companies_house_document (1)
The Serim family has several companies operating in northern Cyprus run by Yasin’s younger brother Halil İbrahim Serim. The Cypriot media recently claimed that a big Turkish construction company involved in corruption on the island was saved from prosecution thanks to Maksut Serim’s influence.
According to the Turkish media, Yasin Ekrem Serim owned four companies in the United Kingdom together with his brother. However, Turkish law prohibits civil servants from having shares in private companies, with the result that Yasin had disposed of all his shares in these companies by 2020.
Yasin is married to Çağla Seymenoğlu, the daughter of former ruling party deputy Safiye Seymenoğlu. The couple got married in 2014 in a showy ceremony whose guest of honor was Erdoğan.
In 2011 Serim became an object of hatred on social media. Then-prime minister Erdoğan, who attended the opening of the new stadium of Turkey’s popular Galatasaray football club, was protested by Galatasaray fans. In a tweet full of poor Turkish and grammatical errors, Serim insulted Galatasaray fans and accused them of ingratitude. Serim had to suspend his Twitter account in the aftermath.