Thursday, April 9, 2020

Turkish ambassador to Qatar assisted one-time al-Qaeda financier with citizenship applications

Nordi Monitor

Secret wiretaps have revealed that Fikret Özer, the Turkish ambassador to Qatar and former consul general in the Saudi city of Jeddah, had assisted Saudi businessman Yasin al-Qadi and his family members acquire Turkish citizenship.

Yasin al-Qadi is an Egyptian-born Saudi national who was at one time flagged by the US Treasury and the UN al-Qaeda sanction committee. Al-Qadi was later removed from the UN list, followed by the US Treasury delisting his name.

According to documents obtained by Nordic Monitor, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s chief of cabinet, Hasan Doğan, received an emergency call from Osama Qotb, the nephew of Egyptian cleric Sayyid Qutb, a founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, on May 22, 2013 at 20:42 hours. Qotb, acting on behalf of al-Qadi, asked Erdoğan’s chief aide to facilitate the processing of a citizenship application submitted by al-Hakim (full name is not included), a relative of al-Qadi.

Qotb said on the phone that al-Hakim had applied for citizenship at the Turkish Consulate General in Jeddah, where Özer was serving as consul general at the time, and that Özer had also assisted al-Hakim’s family members with applications at Turkish diplomatic missions in Dubai, London and Chicago. Qotb asked for Doğan’s assistance in acquiring Turkish citizenship for al-Hakim and his family members.

The secret wiretap transcript details a call between Qotb and Doğan on May 22, 2013 at 20:42 hours. The authorization was granted by the Istanbul 2nd High Criminal Court on May 20, 2013 as part of investigation case file no. 2013/3427.

Ambassador Özer, a childhood friend of President Erdoğan, has been a key operative in pursuing clandestine relations between the family of the Turkish president and the Al Thani royal family. Özer attended the İstanbul İmam-Hatip Lisesi, a religious public school, together with Erdoğan in the 1970s and had worked as an administrative officer in the foreign ministry since 1979.

According to another wiretap recorded in 2013, Egemen Bağış, the then-EU affairs minister and current Turkish ambassador in Prague, told Reza Zarrab, an Iranian money launderer, that Özer was engaged in selling Turkish citizenship to Afghan residents of Saudi Arabia for $100,000 during his posting in Jeddah.

Bağış was one of four ministers forced to resign on December 25, 2013 after the revelation of two corruption investigations on December 17 and 25 in which the inner circle of then-Prime Minister Erdoğan were implicated. He was accused of accepting bribes from Zarrab in a sanctions-busting scheme run through Turkish state-owned Halkbank to circumvent US sanctions on Iran. He received $1.5 million from Zarrab. Bağış also helped Zarrab evade the bureaucracy in his dealings and assisted Zarrab’s father in acquiring a Schengen visa from the Italian Embassy in Ankara.

Transcript of the court-authorized wiretap:

Transcript of the court-authorized wiretap:

Al-Qadi was on the UN and US lists and was barred by law from entering Turkey or investing in any business pursuant to UN Security Council resolutions 1267 and 1989 concerning al-Qaeda and associated individuals and entities when some of the secret meetings were held between Erdoğan, the then-prime minister, and al-Qadi, with the chief of cabinet arranging the meetings between the two. Al-Qadi secretly entered Turkey multiple times and also met with Hakan Fidan, the head of Turkish intelligence agency MIT.

Al-Qadi, Doğan and Erdoğan’s son Bilal were all leading suspects in an organized crime investigation pursued by prosecutors in Istanbul and were the subjects of detention warrants issued on December 25, 2013 by the prosecutors. However, Erdoğan stepped in, illegally preventing the execution of the warrants by ordering the police to ignore the prosecutor’s orders. After the removal of the prosecutors and police chiefs who were involved in the investigation, Erdoğan managed to whitewash the crimes of his associates.

Moreover, Erdoğan made repeatedly supportive remarks about al-Qadi and defended his advisors and party members’ relationship with the Saudi businessman, saying: “I know al-Qadi, and I believe in him as much as I believe in myself. He is a benevolent lover of Turkey and has investments here. It is impossible that he is connected to terrorism.”