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Husband of pro-gov’t journalist among Turkish businessmen indicted for defrauding Ukraine

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The Ankara Chief Prosecutor’s Office has completed its investigation into allegations that Turkish businessmen, including the husband of pro-government journalist Hande Fırat, defrauded Ukraine of $5.1 million in military equipment deals, the T24 news website reported on Monday.

The prosecutor’s office has issued an indictment for six people, including Fırat’s husband, Murat Özvardar, on charges of “systematic fraud committed by multiple persons” and “forgery of official documents.” Four suspects are facing more than 26 years in prison, while the other two are facing up to 31 and a half years.

The fraud came to light when Ukraine’s arms procurement representative in Turkey filed a complaint with the Ankara police and prosecutor’s office on April 7, 2022. Vladimir Krakovetsky, the Ukrainian Interior Ministry’s director of public relations, claimed that several Turkish individuals had orchestrated the scam.

According to Krakovetsky’s complaint, the scheme was masterminded by Özvardar, a businessman with ties to the government, and his associates. Özvardar’s wife, journalist Fırat, has faced accusations of working undercover for Turkish intelligence.

The complaint revealed that Özvardar and his associate Koray Altınel promised to supply body armor, protective helmets and weapons to Ukraine. Altınel reportedly had connections with senior government officials, including former interior minister Süleyman Soylu, and used this as leverage to gain trust.

Krakovetsky was initially led to believe that a group in Georgia was willing to donate $70 million to Ukraine to cover the cost of military supplies. However, the story changed, and Altınel claimed that Ukraine needed to pay for the shipment of arms and military goods.

Despite some red flags, Krakovetsky transferred $5.1 million to Altınel’s accounts as part of the agreement. However, no deliveries were made, and attempts to contact Altınel were unsuccessful, leading to suspicions of fraud.

Although Altınel and others were briefly detained, they were later released.

Özvardar has faced previous accusations of criminal activity, including alleged involvement in plundering assets in territories controlled by the Turkish military and proxies in Syria.

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