Erdoğan appoints son-in-law’s ‘thesis writer’ to Wealth Fund board

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has appointed Professor Erişah Arıcan, who allegedly wrote the Ph.D. thesis of Erdoğan’s son-in-law and Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, as an executive board member of Turkey’s sovereign Wealth Fund.

Erdoğan on Wednesday had appointed himself chairman of the Wealth Fund and Albayrak as his deputy chairman.

Professor Arıcan attracted attention in December 2016 when Wikileaks released e-mails allegedly belonging to then-Energy Minister Albayrak. In an e-mail dated Sept. 27, 2010, Arıcan tells Albayrak she has finished most of his Ph.D. thesis, asks him to fill in some missing parts and proposes they write the conclusion together.

Arıcan is a professor at Marmara University, where Albayrak received his doctorate.

According to a report by the Cumhuriyet daily, Arıcan began to rapidly rise in her career in the years following. In 2015 she was appointed director of the Institute of Banking and Insurance at Marmara University and in 2016 as a member of the Borsa Istanbul (Turkey’s stock exchange) board.

In another e-mail dated April 19, 2016, Arıcan sends a list of 29 professors who worked at the university, profiling them according to political tendencies and religious beliefs, and says she can give additional information in person.

The wealth fund has stakes in assets including Turkish Airlines, Türk Telekom, state lenders TC Ziraat Bankası AŞ and Türkiye Halk Bankası AŞ, state oil and pipeline companies, the national postal service, the stock exchange, the national lottery and the national railway.

Since its formation, officials have debated the purpose of the fund, with some saying the companies should be managed to add value in line with a traditional sovereign vehicle, while others argue that its assets could be deployed to ease market turmoil. Others have pushed for the assets to be securitized and for the state to borrow against them.

In a shakeup of the board, Erdoğan ousted one of his own advisers, Yiğit Bulut. The new board members include Rıfat Hisarcıklıoğlu, head of the Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges (TOBB); Hüseyin Aydın, head of the banking association and Ziraat CEO; Arda Ermut, head of Turkey’s investment support and promotion agency; Arıcan; and businessman Fuat Tosyalı.

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