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US court orders release of Turkish businessman accused of fraud: report

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Turkish businessman Sezgin Baran Korkmaz, who had been facing charges of money laundering, wire fraud and obstruction in the United States, was released pending trial in Utah on July 25, according to a special report by the Turkish edition of Voice of America (VOA Türkçe) published on Wednesday, citing an anonymous source who closely monitors the case.

VOA Türkçe attempted to reach out to the prosecution, court clerk and Korkmaz’s Turkish lawyer Nafiz Çekirge regarding the report of his release but received no response to their inquiries. The US Justice Department website has not yet confirmed Korkmaz’s release, and no new documents related to the case have been filed.

The reported release pending trial comes after a series of legal proceedings and Korkmaz’z extradition from Austria in July 2022, where he had sought to avoid facing charges in Turkey and the US.

Korkmaz, who was wanted in Turkey on charges of money laundering, fled the country and was subsequently captured in Austria.

He was later extradited to the US to face charges related to his alleged involvement in a fraudulent biodiesel tax credit scheme, which defrauded the US Treasury of more than $1 billion. The scheme involved Korkmaz and his co-conspirators filing false claims for tax credits through their company, Washakie Renewable Energy LLC.

In addition to the biodiesel fraud charges, Korkmaz faced accusations of fraudulent sales and alleged ties to the mafia as well as charges related to the acquisition of several companies, including airline company Borajet and pharmaceutical company Biofarma.

The indictment claimed Korkmaz used the illegal proceeds from the fraud to acquire luxury properties and businesses, including a yacht named “Queen Anne,” a hotel in Turkey and a villa and apartment on the Bosporus in Istanbul.

Korkmaz’s journey from a shoe shine boy to the owner of SBK Holding has been marred by controversy and legal troubles. The US Department of Justice had sought his extradition from Austria due to the low likelihood of him being extradited to Turkey, where he was also wanted for money laundering and fraud.

The Turkish businessman’s case has attracted significant attention due to its alleged ties to high-profile figures and efforts to influence foreign officials. Korkmaz’s legal team has been battling the charges, and the case continues to be closely watched both in Turkey and the United States.

If convicted, Korkmaz could face 20 years in prison for each count of money laundering, wire fraud and obstruction of an official proceeding.

Sedat Peker, the head of one of Turkey’s most powerful mafia groups who had made shocking revelations in 2021 about state-mafia relations, drug trafficking and murders implicating state officials and their family members, previously alleged that it was Turkey’s then-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.

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