Daily: Businessman implicated in massive graft probe won public tenders worth $ 50 billion

Mehmet Cengiz, the owner of Cengiz Holding who coordinated a pool of millions of dollars collected from businessmen for the government to buy Turkuaz Media Group  — which owns the Sabah daily and the ATV network — has won public tenders amounting to almost TL 100 billion, the Taraf daily reported on Monday.

According to the daily, Cengiz won 28 public tenders in the past 10 years amounting to 23.7 billion euros, $4.9 billion and TL 6 billion. Considering the current exchange rates, the amount that Cengiz Holding received, directly or in consortium, from public tenders was TL 88.6 billion. When build-operate-transfer (BOT) deals are included, Cengiz Holding won business totaling TL 100 billion.

The leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) said on Feb. 4 that a total of $630 million was collected from eight businesspeople, upon the instructions of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, to buy the Sabah media group, a pro-government media outlet that owns dailies and television stations.

The details of a summary of judicial investigation proceedings into the Turkuaz Media Group were shared via Twitter by user Haramzadeler100 (sons of thieves) on Feb. 5. The voice recording the Twitter user released revealed that Mehmet Cengiz, Celal Koloğlu, Nihat Özdemir, İbrahim Çeçen and an unknown businessperson allegedly contributed a total of $100 million each to the pool of money to buy the media group. Other businesspeople contributed smaller amounts, including Adnan Çebi ($30 million) and Hayrettin Özaltın ($20 million). Çeçen was reportedly willing to give an additional $50 million if he was allowed a share in the third Bosporus Bridge tender. According to the voice recordings, it is unknown if Muzaffer Nasıroğlu and Abdullah Tivnikli made any contributions.

The Twitter user claims that the Çalık Group, the owner of the Turkuaz Media Group, wants to get out of the media business and provided certain businesspeople with armored vehicles for the transportation of the money the government allegedly solicited from businesspeople after pressuring them and promising shares in big government tenders.

Police surveillance determined that Cengiz asked Ahmet Çalık, then-owner of the media group, and Serhat Albayrak, CEO of the media group and a relative of Prime Minister Erdoğan, for a vehicle to carry a large portion of the money Cengiz planned to withdraw from his account at Ziraat Bankası so that he could transfer it to Aktifbank, a bank owned by Çalık.

Some of the tenders that Cengiz Holding won in the past 10 years include the third airport in İstanbul, amounting to 22.1 billion euros, Boğaziçi Electric Distribution, worth $1.9 billion, and Ankara-Sivas railway project, worth TL 839 million.

Meanwhile, Taraf reported that the judicial investigation into the Turkuaz Media Group also reveals that during the sale of the former Cine 5 television building the promise to return the building to Cine 5 with the condition that it pay $4 billion debt in addition to the highest price in the tender was ignored by Halkbank. The building was sold to Çalık Holding in 2005.


About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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