The State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR) bought five oil tankers belonging to the family of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan using offshore companies in Malta, The Black Sea website reported on Friday.
According to the report, SOCAR has neither commented on nor made public the deal, potentially worth up to $100 million and conducted through the oil giant’s trading arm, SOCAR Logistics, earlier this year.
SOCAR purchased the fleet from the Erdoğan family’s BMZ Group – an Istanbul-based shipping company owned by the President’s son Bilal, his brother Mustafa, and his brother-in-law Ziya Ilgen.
The secret sale occurred during a period of heavy pressure on SOCAR from Erdoğan’s government to cleanse its ranks of alleged followers of exiled Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, who was accused by President Erdoğan and his government of being behind a failed coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016.
The Azeri state company now leases the ships to a fledgling firm based in Moscow, called Frachtmortrans, whose directors and shareholders have ties to SOCAR and the business of UK oil giant BP in Azerbaijan.
Contacted by The Black Sea, BP denied any knowledge of the business, while SOCAR and its representatives ignored the news website’s questions.
The revelations are part of the European Investigative Collaborations’ (EIC) #MaltaFiles, which have already exposed the Erdoğan family’s secret ownership of a $25 million oil tanker, called the Agdash, though offshore companies in Malta and the Isle of Man, and the $140 million offshore holdings of the children of Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım.
According to The Black Sea, the revelation of SOCAR’s hushed acquisition of the Erdoğans’ ships raises questions about how much the oil giant is appeasing Turkey’s first family due to the company’s historic connection to a group that Ankara labels terrorists.
It also brings light to the extent to which the Erdoğan clan exploits the country’s political infrastructure to benefit their own pockets.