The Turkish Interior Ministry has confirmed that Minister Süleyman Soylu in 2017 used a plane belonging to Borajet, owned by Sezgin Baran Korkmaz, a Turkish businessman involved in a money-laundering scheme in the United States and accused of involvement in large-scale corruption in Turkey, local media reported on Friday.
Having fled Turkey in December 2020, Korkmaz was arrested in Austria on a US warrant last week and is sought both by Turkey and the US.
The statement, which came in response to a news report involving claims against Soylu, argued that the rental deal for the plane was in fact struck with an aviation company called Söğüt Havacılık, but since the company “ran out of planes,” it had contracted for outsourcing from Borajet.
“It’s common knowledge that when a plane or vehicle rental company doesn’t have a plane at their immediate disposal, they secure rental services from another company in order to meet their customer’s needs,” the ministry said.
Sharing receipts for TL 165,808 ($44,000), the ministry also stated that the cost of the rental services had been covered by Soylu’s private insurance with Engin Sigorta.
According to the statement, Soylu had chosen not to use the government’s own planes and helicopters during the 2017 election campaign “due to electoral prohibitions and political ethics,” although he was authorized to do so.
Cumhuriyet daily columnist Tuncay Mollaveisoğlu on Friday claimed in a report that Soylu had treated Korkmaz’s $54 million Bombardier Global jet, rented at the cost of €15,000 per flight, “as if it were his own private taxi,” especially prior to the 2018 elections. The columnist added that Soylu’s name was likely to be found on the plane’s manifest filed with the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (SHGM).
Mollaveisoğlu revealed the allegations at a time when Soylu’s relationship with Korkmaz has come under growing scrutiny as Sedat Peker, the head of one of Turkey’s most powerful mafia groups who has since early May been making shocking revelations about state-mafia relations, drug trafficking and murders implicating state officials and their family members, alleged that it was Soylu who helped Korkmaz flee abroad.
Peker has also claimed that it was connections to his family that had helped Soylu rise through the ranks of the right-wing True Path Party (DYP) before he joined the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in 2012 at the invitation of then prime minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. He further alleged that Soylu helped him avoid prosecution by notifying him that an investigation into him was being prepared before he fled Turkey in early 2020.