Erdoğan ally Cengiz İnşaat company acquires historical grove ‘for free’

Construction company Cengiz İnşaat, whose owner Mehmet Cengiz was implicated in the Dec. 17 and Dec. 25 graft probes for a number of business deals, has acquired precious land in a grove in İstanbul’s Üsküdar district for free, the Cumhuriyet daily reported on Tuesday.

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.

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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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