Turkish businessman Sezgin Baran Korkmaz is charged with “conspiring to commit money laundering,” “wire fraud” and “obstruction of an official proceeding,” according to a statement posted by the US Department of Justice on its website on Monday.
The department said Korkmaz was arrested in Austria on June 19 at the request of the department following a superseding indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Salt Lake City, Utah, on April 28, which was unsealed on Monday.
Korkmaz is accused of laundering over $133 million in fraud proceeds through his bank accounts, according to the indictment, which refers to Korkmaz’s ties to Jacob Kingston, Isaiah Kingston and Levon Termendzhyan.
The indictment alleges that Korkmaz devised a scheme to defraud Jacob Kingston and Isaiah Kingston by falsely representing that he could provide them with protection, through unnamed government officials, from a federal grand jury investigation and civil lawsuits.
The US Department of Justice said it will seek to extradite Korkmaz to the US to stand trial in Utah.
Korkmaz and his co-conspirators allegedly used proceeds from the fraud to acquire the Turkish airline Borajet, hotels in Turkey and Switzerland, a yacht named the Queen Anne, and a villa and apartment on the Bosporus Strait in Istanbul, the statement said.
“If convicted, Korkmaz faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for the money laundering conspiracy count, 20 years in prison for each of the wire fraud counts, and five years in prison for the obstruction count,” according to the Department of Justice statement.
Meanwhile, the Turkish Embassy in Vienna has officially requested the extradition of Korkmaz to Turkey.
“In line with the instruction from our Ministry, we launched extradition proceedings on June 19,” Turkish Ambassador to Austria Ozan Ceyhun said.
Korkmaz reportedly sought to be extradited to Turkey as his lawyer Volkan Dülger said on Monday: “My client wants to be tried in Turkey and will request his extradition accordingly. We know that Turkey has filed for his extradition as well. And we will request his extradition to Turkey today or tomorrow.”
Dülger had said on Monday that Korkmaz wants to stand trial in Turkey where he is not likely to serve any jail time, rather than in the US, where he probably will be given a prison sentence. The lawyer said a person gets a prison sentence of between three and seven years on money laundering charges in Turkey and does not go to jail for certain types of crimes requiring a sentence of up to six years. However, this offense requires a longer prison sentence in the US.
A legal action had been brought against Korkmaz on charges of laundering money and fraud in Turkey. Korkmaz had been accused of using the money he obtained through unlawful means in the US to make investments in Turkey.