The daily quoted a Cengiz İnşaat executive saying the company bought 65 percent of the Hüseyin Avni Paşa grove — which is 81,511 square meters in size and has over 3,000 trees planted inside — from the Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF), and the remainder from an unnamed individual.
The report’s question about how much Cengiz İnşaat paid to acquire the land was left unanswered; however, Cumhuriyet found the land’s deed registry, dated March 8, 2013, which shows “TL 0” in the box for “sale price.”
The Cengiz İnşaat executive asserted that the grove had nothing to do with the investigations. As for a question regarding the company’s plans for a forested area in a central İstanbul district, the firm’s executive said they were planning to restore a historical mansion on the land to use it as a tourist attraction.
Notwithstanding the official statement, Cumhuriyet cited a high-level bureaucrat saying that restrictions on the development plans for this land had been removed recently. The company may have had plans to build residence or shopping centers there, but had to suspend them after the investigation began, he told the daily.
The daily claimed that the company’s strategy of acquiring the property may prove that the bureaucrat is telling the truth, since the mansion in question was already on the plot of land included in the 65 percent that Cengiz İnşaat had purchased from the TMSF. Instead of starting the renovation, the daily said, the company’s next step would be to gain ownership of the remaining territory. The daily also mentioned speculation from an anonymous source that the company had already made sure the government would remove the zoning restrictions on the land.
The inhabitants of the quarters around the grove are concerned about the green field being filled with concrete; they want the area to be opened to the public again, according to the daily.
The Hüseyin Avni Paşa grove is located on Paşalimanı Street and has a striking view of the Bosporus. Halide Edip Adıvar, one of the first female writers in Turkey, lived in the mansion there for some time. The grove used to be a property belonging to the Adıvar family, and the historical building served as a primary school in the past.
A good friend of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Cengiz is part of a Turkish businessmen group who allegedly contributed a total of $100 million each to the pool to buy the media group Turkuvaz, the owner of pro-government dailies Sabah, Takvim and TV stations ATV and AHaber.
Separately, Cengiz is notoriously known for his use of vulgar language in a recently leaked wiretapped telephone conversation. Cengiz is heard in the mentioned phone conversation, recorded during the legal surveillance phase of a graft investigation, telling his friend, “We will f..k this nation.” He was allegedly referring to purchase of Turkuvaz.