Ahmet Çalık, the fifth richest man in Turkey with a fortune worth $1.5 billion and a close ally of the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, was identified in the Pandora Papers, a leak of some 12 million documents that reveal hidden wealth and tax avoidance by some of the world’s rich and powerful, with four offshore companies linked to his Çalık Holding, Deutsche Welle’s Turkish service (DW Türkçe) reported on Tuesday.
According to DW Türkçe, Oipano Trading S.A, Textiles International Ltd, Lasarre Trading Ltd, and Sonjah International Limited were established for Çalık Holding by Trident Trust, a global corporate and fund administrator.
Straellington Nominee Limited is running the four companies based in the British Virgin Islands as a shareholder proxy for Çalık Holding, which conducts business in 20 countries as a shareholder, the report says.
However, the four offshore companies are not mentioned in Çalık Holding’s business activity reports.
Çalık Holding has been one of the fastest-growing companies during the 19-year rule of Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), thanks to lucrative deals with the government in privatizations, the awarding of state tenders and favorable loan terms from state banks.
Having secret offshore assets is not illegal in Turkey as in many parts of the world. Still, experts say a complex network of secret companies to move around assets can be a way to hide illegal profits.
According to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), who uncovered the Pandora Papers, an estimated $5.6 trillion to $32 trillion is hidden offshore.
Çalık-owned bank suspected of money laundering
Çalık-owned Aktif Bank made headlines last year when it was mentioned in the FinCEN Files, a number of leaked classified documents from the US Department of the Treasury, which revealed the bank’s central role in facilitating suspicious financial transactions.
Aktif Bank was suspected of money laundering “for a customer network that includes the scandal-ridden German financial service provider Wirecard and shady figures from the porn industry,” according to the Deutsche Welle news website.
FinCEN Files were leaked to BuzzFeed News and shared with the ICIJ.
The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) is a bureau of the US Treasury that collects and analyzes information about financial transactions in order to combat domestic and international money laundering, terrorist financing and other financial crimes.
According to the DW report, Aktif Bank was helping Germany’s Wirecard Bank, which “conducted a good deal of business with customers from the pornography and gambling industries.” The bank’s Afghanistan operations, with 561 “suspicious transfers” worth $35.3 million from Afghan accounts, were also under the spotlight.