Cengiz Holding, one of five holdings that have been awarded nearly all the large tenders in Turkey during President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s time in office, has been sending funds to a company in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and buying assets in the UK through the firm, Deutsche Welle’s Turkish Service reported on Wednesday, citing the Pandora Papers, a massive document leak revealed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
According to DW, Mehmet Cengiz, the chairman of Cengiz Holding, which is known to be close to Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), is hiding his wealth and avoids taxes by means of an offshore company named MEFA Cengiz Limited in the BVI.
Established by Trident Trust, a global corporate and fund administrator with capital of $50,000, on April 6, 2011, MEFA Cengiz Limited had had proxy shareholders and directors representing Mehmet Cengiz, with one of them being Cengiz Holding executive board member Uğur Cengiz, a shareholder of the company who also became a director in 2015.
In the same year Mehmet Cengiz and Uğur Cengiz became the sole shareholders of MEFA Cengiz Limited, taking all the proxies out of the company, DW said.
MEFA Cengiz Limited is managed on behalf of the Cengiz family by Standard Chartered Trust (Guernsey) Limited, a subsidiary of Standard Chartered Plc, a British multinational banking and financial services company, DW added.
Answering written questions from DW, Mehmet Cengiz confirmed that MEFA Cengiz belongs to him and Uğur Cengiz but declined to provide any information on his taxes.
According to DW, Trident Trust records show that the Cengiz family in 2011 purchased a house for £3.750 million ($5 million) on Brompton Road, London, through MEFA Cengiz.
The Panama Papers, which were also published by the ICIJ in 2016 and included the files of the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, formerly revealed that Mehmet Cengiz, one of its clients, made purchases and sales, market research and customs agreements through a total of six offshore companies he has in Niue and the BVI, to which he was transferring funds.
Cengiz, one of the world’s top 10 private sponsors of public infrastructure projects for the years 1990 to 2020, according to World Bank data, won tenders worth $42.1 billion between 2002 and 2020.
The holding first came to public attention in Turkey in late 2013, when Turkey was shaken by the news of two corruption investigations in which senior ruling AKP politicians were involved.
Mehmet Cengiz, who has been awarded numerous public contracts — including the construction of İstanbul’s third airport — during the 18 years of AKP rule, was heard in wiretapped phone conversations cursing the Turkish people.
The opposition parties accuse Cengiz, among others, of tender-rigging and claim he is among Turkey’s biggest tax evaders.