Erdoğan government plays ‘three monkeys’ over whereabouts of UN-sanctioned Saadi Gaddafi living in Turkey

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Abdullah Bozkurt/Stockholm

The Turkish government refused to answer repeated questions from UN investigators who determined that Saadi Gaddafi, sanctioned by the UN Security Council and wanted by INTERPOL, had traveled to Turkey on a special flight after his release from a Libyan prison.

In a report submitted to the UN Security Council on May 27, 2022, the Group of Experts on Libya said that Turkey had refused to respond to their demands regarding the fate of Gaddafi, even though evidence indicated that the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Gaddafi, the youngest son of former leader Muammar Gaddafi, who was deposed and killed in a 2011 uprising, had been detained in Tripoli since 2014 after being extradited from Niger, where he fled in 2011. He was accused of committing crimes against protesters. during the uprising and placed on the sanctions list of the UN Security Council, which in March 2011 called on member states to apply both a travel ban and an assets freeze against him. He was also placed on an INTERPOL watch list.

Although still under sanctions, his trip to Turkey signifies that the Erdoğan government deliberately and willfully violated UN resolutions on Libya. His sanctuary in Turkey was reportedly part of a deal brokered by Turkish government officials with Libyan authorities, including Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh and former Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha.

Turkey’s policy of denial was first displayed when a Dassault Falcon 900EX, owned by the Libyan government under the registration number. 5A-DCN, landed in Istanbul at 1:37 a.m. on September 6, 2021. Although a local news service sent a short article about the arrival with a photo of the plane, a few hours later Turkish officials reportedly said they could not confirm the news.

Photo of Saadi Gaddafi, sanctioned by the UN Security Council and wanted by INTERPOL, on board a plane bound for Turkey.

In an interview with Turkish media three days after Gaddafi’s arrival in Turkey, Moussa Ibrahim, Muammar Gaddafi’s former spokesman, also close to the family, said the Turkish Foreign Ministry was coordinating all travel plans and that it was free and safe in Turkey. He claimed that Egypt and Saudi Arabia were also possible destinations, but that Gaddafi had opted for Turkey.

Questioned by UN experts, the Libyan government officially confirmed that the plane had gone to Turkey and that Gaddafi was on board. Two letters sent to Turkey by UN investigators in September and November 2021, requesting additional information, have remained unanswered to date.

There has been speculation as to why Erdoğan decided to bring Gaddafi to Turkey as he was arming and supporting factions, especially Islamists, against Libya’s eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar. who is aligned with most former Gaddafi supporters. Suggestions range from Turkey’s attempt to undermine the Haftar bloc by courting Gaddafi family members and their supporters to gain political capital for future spending in case the Gaddafi family ever makes a comeback despite all odds.

UN Security Council report shines spotlight on Turkey the Where is Saadi Gaddafi:

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All speculation about the motives of the Turkish government seems plausible. But no one has so far entertained the idea that President Erdoğan may have had a personal financial interest in the wealth and assets that the Gaddafi family had hidden abroad, particularly in Turkey. The fate of Muammar Gaddafi’s $400 million that disappeared from Arap-Türk Bankası (A&T Bank) after it was seized by government regulators in July 2011 is still an unsolved mystery.

Libyan Foreign Bank, owned by the Libyan Central Bank, has a majority stake of 62.37% in A&T Bank, followed by Turkish private lender İş Bankası and Turkish state bank Ziraat Bankası. The Erdoğan government continued to operate the bank after the seizure and reportedly used some 2 billion Turkish liras from the bank’s coffers to support factions in Libya.

A&T Bank was on the radar of Turkish investigators in 2013 when they investigated an organized crime syndicate that incriminated members of the Erdoğan family, including his younger son Bilal Erdoğan and son-in-law Berat Albayrak. The corruption investigation, made public on December 25, 2013, revealed that Erdoğan had set up what was called a “media pool”, which refers to a pool of funds brought in by pro businessmen. -governments in exchange for favors in the form of public tenders.

INTERPOL Notice on Saadi Gaddafi:

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Erdoğan wanted to create his own media by buying Sabah-ATV media and ordered his minister Binali Yıldırım to collect $630 million from businessmen close to him in return for granting major appeals. public offers without a call for tenders. Some of the money for this bribe scheme would be obtained from A&T Bank as well as its shareholder Ziraat, both of which were under government control at the time.

The bank also played a role in a sanctions-busting scheme against Iran and came to light when a damning revelation was made in a corruption case involving Turkish-Iranian national Reza Zarrab, who bribed senior government officials. government, including ministers, and cultivated personal ties with Erdoğan. The case, made public on December 13, 2013, showed that Zarrab secretly communicated with Özgür Erker, an A&T bank official, to discuss a money laundering scheme on behalf of Iran.

A wiretap obtained on October 5, 2012 revealed that Zarrab told Erker about a new scheme to launder Iranian money that would first go to state lender Halkbank and then move on to A&T Bank. Using his position at the bank, Erker would later pay the money to Zarrab. The two men agreed on the plan. When Zarrab asked Erker if other members of the bank’s management could create problems for them, Erker replied, “There will be no problem.”

Wiretapping of a conversation between Reza Zarrab and Özgür Erker, an A&T Bank official:

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Erdoğan, who was incriminated in this investigation, intervened to derail the prosecution and helped release all suspects after orchestrating the removal of lead prosecutors and investigators in the case. All of the suspects, including Zarrab, were later acquitted by new judges who were brought in to oversee the case by the Erdoğan government.

However, Zarrab was arrested by the FBI in Miami in 2016 and charged by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York with engaging in hundreds of millions of dollars in transactions on behalf of the Iranian government, money laundering and bank fraud. He reached a plea deal with prosecutors and cooperated in a US federal case that exposed the role of Erdoğan, who ordered Turkish state banks to participate in the multi-billion dollar scheme in exchange for bribes. de-wine.

At the end of the trial, Mehmet Hakan Atilla, the deputy managing director of public lender Halkbank, was convicted and served a sentence before returning to Turkey. Co-conspirators who have been indicted by US federal prosecutors, including former cabinet minister Erdoğan, remain out of reach.

Therefore, it is fair to assume that money plays a crucial role in President Erdoğan’s calculations regarding the Libya dossier. It would not be surprising to see that Gaddafi’s sanctuary in Turkey has a lot to do with money in addition to politics and the influence the Erdoğan government seeks in North Africa.

Recall that in the early years of the Syrian conflict, the Turkish intelligence agency MIT not only transported weapons and fighters from Libya to Syria to overthrow the regime of Bashar al-Assad, but also transported money Libyan in planes it operated. At the time, Erdoğan was even accused of conspiring with Aisha Gaddafi, the late Libyan leader’s daughter, to hide some of the family’s funds in Turkey. Today, the same MIT provides security for Saadi Gaddafi and his family during their stay in Turkey.

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