Turkish police on Friday raided an apartment in İstanbul belonging to Ali Yeşildağ, a former confidant of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who made shocking revelations about the president earlier this year, and detained his wife, Serpil, Turkish Minute has learned.
The İstanbul police seized documents, digital materials, computers and mobile phones in the apartment during their search.
The detention of Serpil Yeşildağ took place shortly after news broke about her husband’s escape from Turkey to Greece to avoid prosecution due to his revelations about alleged corruption and criminal activities involving Erdoğan and his family and government.
Greek media outlet LIFO reported last week that Yeşildağ, 54, was detained by Greek police in Evros on Nov. 17 trying to enter Greece illegally. LIFO reported that he was taken to Komotini Prison. He is now seeking political asylum in Greece. The businessman, who suffers from Type 1 diabetes, is also seeking his release from detention, citing his medical condition, through his lawyer.
The Yeşildağ family has a longstanding relationship with Erdoğan. Hasan Yeşildağ, the eldest brother, served as Erdoğan’s bodyguard during the latter’s imprisonment in 1999. Ali Yeşildağ parted ways with Erdoğan and his own family later due to disagreements.
Yeşildağ came to public attention with the seven videos he had had posted on the YouTube account of investigative journalist Cevheri Güven in the run-up-to the general election in May.
He made explosive revelations how the Erdoğan family made hundreds of millions of dollars in ill-gotten gains through front companies that on paper were run by their cronies but in reality belonged to themselves.
Yeşildağ was targeted by the government after his videos attracted widespread attention on social media and an investigation was launched into him by the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on charges of terrorist organization membership.
Turkey had reportedly had an Interpol Red Notice issued for him due to a previous crime.
Yeşildağ, who was arrested in 2015 on the grounds that he had not served his full sentence for a crime he committed in 1986 and was released from prison in 2020 as part of measures to contain the coronavirus pandemic, said his arrest was a conspiracy against him to keep him silent and under control. He claimed his arrest took place with Erdoğan’s involvement when he wanted to part ways with his own family, which had deprived him of assets, and when his efforts to seek help from Erdoğan all failed.
Yeşildağ faced another arrest warrant issued in 2021 to serve the rest of his sentence, which, according to Turkey’s Justice Ministry, is four years. Yeşildağ claims he has already served his sentence and would not surrender to judicial authorities.
In one of his videos Yeşildağ accused Erdoğan of siphoning off $1 billion from a public tender for the operation of an airport in the country’s Antalya province.
He claimed Erdoğan manipulated the tender to ensure that the contract was awarded to a company owned by one of his close associates, who then channeled a portion of the funds to Erdoğan.
In another video, Yeşildağ revealed a corruption scheme involving the misappropriation of $3.5 billion worth of European Union funds earmarked for the improvement of Turkey’s agriculture sector. He alleged that then-minister of agriculture Mehdi Eker, along with his family and close associates, established a network of shell companies to divert the funds for their personal enrichment.
Yeşildağ asserted that he is only sharing information about instances of corruption in which he was personally involved or has firsthand knowledge. He promised to reveal more in future videos, stating that “you will vomit in the future.”