Sezgin Baran Korkmaz, a fugitive Turkish businessman who was involved in a money-laundering scheme in the US and accused of involvement in large-scale corruption in Turkey, will be extradited to the US on July 15, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Monday, citing an Austrian prosecutor.
Both Turkey and the US have sought the extradition of Korkmaz, who was arrested on June 19 in Austria at the request of the US Department of Justice. Local courts in Wels accepted an extradition request from Turkey for Korkmaz in August 2021 and another one from Washington in March 2022.
US prosecutors allege that the businessman laundered more than $133 million in fraud proceeds through bank accounts that he controlled in Turkey and Luxembourg.
They accuse him and his accomplices, Jacob and Isaiah Kingston, members of a polygamist group in Utah, and a California-based fuel company owner named in US documents as Levon Termendzhyan, of using the money to buy the Turkish airline Borajet, hotels in Turkey and Switzerland, a yacht called the Queen Anne and a villa and apartment overlooking the Bosporus in İstanbul.
There is also an ongoing investigation into Korkmaz in Turkey over allegations of money laundering and fraud.
Anadolu on Monday cited prosecutor Silke Enzlmüller from the press unit of the Wels Prosecutor’s Office as saying that Korkmaz initially will be taken to Vienna from the Austrian city of Wels where he is currently in custody and then will be put on a plane to be extradited to the US on Friday.
On June 15 the Austrian Ministry of Justice granted extradition priority to the US on the grounds that the first of the crimes charged against Korkmaz was committed in the US and that his number of victims in the US was higher than in Turkey.
Korkmaz, who has denied the claims against him, had told a Turkish reporter in July 2021 that he would rather face justice at home, where he is likely to get a lighter sentence.
Sedat Peker, the head of one of Turkey’s most powerful mafia groups who has been making shocking revelations since early 2021 about state-mafia relations, drug trafficking and murders implicating state officials and their family members, previously alleged that it was Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu who had helped Korkmaz flee Turkey in December 2020.
Soylu’s relationship with Korkmaz came under scrutiny over Peker’s revelations, and the Interior Ministry confirmed in June 2021 that Soylu in 2017 used a plane belonging to Borajet, owned by Korkmaz.
According to the statement by the ministry, 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.