Exiled Turkish businessman Akın İpek has said members of the Turkish government and judiciary who are behind the confiscation of his family’s assets valued at $10 billion as part of a government-led crackdown will eventually appear in international courts and account for their unlawful deeds.
İpek’s remarks came during an exclusive interview with Turkish Minute on Thursday.
The businessman was thrust into the spotlight again after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan publicly targeted him on Wednesday, saying that those like the “person in the UK” do not have the right to own property due to their links to the Gülen movement, accused by the Turkish government of masterminding a failed coup in July 2016. The movement strongly denies any involvement in the abortive putsch.
“They don’t have such a thing as the right to own property. They owe a huge debt to the public. This person in the UK, how is he going to pay the debt he owes? He should return to this country. That is what we’re fighting for and will continue to fight for,” Erdoğan said before departing for a visit to Azerbaijan.
Living in the UK since 2015, İpek was CEO of İpek Printing House and Koza Holding, which were seized in 2015. He was also the owner of a large media corporation that operated two TV stations, two newspapers and a radio station which were all subsequently shut down by Erdoğan’s government.
Response to Erdoğan
According to a report drafted by London Advocacy, the combined value of schools, universities, dormitories, foundations and associations seized over Gülen-related investigations amounts to $35 billion, while the exact amount of assets confiscated from businesspeople is unknown.
Accused by Erdoğan of being a terrorist and denied the right to own property, Akın said the reason Erdoğan has been targeting him and his family is money.
“After the authorities failed to find any irregularities in our companies, they came up with the idea of appointing government trustees in 2015. In order to do that, they used expert reports that later turned out to be fake. As I am outside the country, my trial cannot proceed, and they are unable to confiscate my [personal] stock,” İpek said.
“My brother Tekin and my mother’s shares were insufficient to control the company, so they seized the shares belonging to Tekin’s wife, too. To be able to do that, they sentenced them all to prison, my mother to 20 years and my brother Tekin to 90 years. What’s the difference between that and capital punishment?”
“This is the burden that our family has to bear. This is why I say they are committing murder for money.”
‘Reason for extradition request: Confiscation of my shares’
Akın İpek explains that the reason for Turkey’s request for his extradition from the UK was the Turkish government’s plans to arrest him and seize his company shares.
“For my extradition to Turkey, even Erdoğan himself took political initiatives. They filed a request generously using the means at their disposal. The reason is that they can’t confiscate my shares when I’m not there. Besides, from here I can file international complaints and whatever is necessary,” İpek said.
“The only reason for what they are doing to us is money. There is no other logical explanation for what happened to my brother Tekin or my mother, who is in the last years of her life.”
“The fact that Erdoğan in a recent statement brought up the seizures that have been going on for more than five years and his saying we don’t have the right to own property is a clear instruction to the judiciary, since the Turkish judges overseeing the court files probably know that legally acquired personal wealth cannot be confiscated and that such moves can in the future cost them dearly both in Turkey and internationally.”
“The Koza İpek dossier will sooner or later be processed in international courts, and anyone with their signature on it will be held to account. I guess Erdoğan reacted to some members of the judiciary who took a reasonable stance and tried to pressure them. Otherwise, linking companies that were transferred to government trustees in 2015 to a military coup in 2016 is not a reasonable way of thinking.”
“Property rights and other fundamental human rights have clear, internationally recognized definitions, and they are not open to interpretation. What needs to be done is to determine whether right violations have occurred or not. This will eventually be decided by international courts.”
‘I have not stolen a dollar’
Speaking about the value of his companies, İpek said: “My companies had an estimated value of $7 to 10 billion. It was alleged that I moved $7 billion offshore. I haven’t moved a dollar, but they have inadvertently said how much they will have to pay me in damages. Maybe a twist of fate. The point is not money. What matters is that they pay the price for what they have done to us, in the interest of justice. This is my challenge. I am doing all that I can.”
His entire fortune confiscated
The İpek business group dates back to 1948. Ali İpek, Akın İpek’s father, established İpek Invitations, which Akın İpek later turned into a globally known brand in the stationery field.
The group took the biggest leap forward in the field of mining. Gold mines operated by Koza Holding were among Turkey’s most profitable businesses. Angel’s Peninsula, founded by Akın İpek, was chosen by World Travel Awards as the world’s best family hotel.
Akın İpek’s mines, printing houses, companies operating in various sectors and even the house in which he used to live were transferred to trustees. Pro-Erdoğan journalists were allowed into İpek’s home, and photos of his bedroom were published in newspapers.
İpek University, established with the help of Akın İpek’s donations, was also shut down. İpek says that of all the closures, that of the university was the one that hurt him the most.
His brother Tekin İpek has spent the last five years behind bars and was sentenced to 90 years in prison, and his mother, Melek İpek, to 20 years. The Erdoğan government’s request for Akın İpek’s extradition from the UK was rejected.
Having lost control of assets worth $10 billion, İpek now runs a small mining business in the UK.