Journalist sentenced to prison for reporting on parliament speaker’s sons’ offshore companies

Former Cumhuriyet reporter Pelin Ünker on Tuesday received a one year, one month and 15 day sentence and was ordered to pay 8,860 Turkish lira for exposing offshore companies that allegedly belonged to Parliament Speaker Binali Yıldırım’s sons in the tax-haven island of Malta. 

Canan Coşkun, another Cumhuriyet reporter, announced the verdict on Twitter, stating that the sentence was not suspended. The ruling will be appealed in a higher court. 

Ünker had reported on Yıldırım’s sons’ ownership of offshore companies situated in a tax haven that were revealed in 2015 by the Panama Papers, the work of investigative journalists who exposed the corrupt business ties of politicians and businesspeople with tax havens.

According to the Panama Papers then-Prime Minister Yıldırım’s sons Erkam and Bülent Yıldırım owned five companies in Malta: South Seas Shipping N.V., Nova Warrior Limited, Dertel Shipping Limited, Hawke Bay Marine Co Ltd. and Black Eagle Marine Co Ltd. 

The Panama Papers show that pro-government business leaders hid their money in shell companies

In early November Yıldırım and two of his sons filed a criminal complaint against Ünker for allegedly insulting a public official with her reporting on passages concerning Yıldırım in the Paradise Papers.

Ünker had previously been the subject of a lawsuit for damages filed by the Yıldırım family for her reporting.

In November a Turkish court  sentenced the Evrensel daily and caricaturist Sefer Selvi to pay 10,000 Turkish lira ($1,800) to Yıldırım and his son Erkam Yıldırım for attacking them in public with a caricature published in the newspaper.

Selvi’s caricature featured then-Prime Minister Yıldırım and his son’s alleged ties to an offshore company situated in a tax haven that were exposed in 2015 by the Panama Papers.

Lawyers for the Yıldırım family complained that the caricature depicted Yıldırım and his son as evading taxes and portrayed them as “ridiculous and comical.” (turkishminute.com)

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