Turkey’s ruling AKP votes down probe on Paradise Papers at Parliament

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) voted down a parliamentary motion to investigate revelations in recent leaks of offshore financial dealings by high level officials, including the energy minister and son-in-law to Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Berat Albayrak, and the sons of Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım.

Mithat Sancar, a member of parliament for the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), said the documents – known in the press as the Paradise Papers – revealed that Yıldırım’s sons had registered businesses on Malta, a choice he said was for the purpose of avoiding Turkish taxes. “What amount of tax would PM Yıldırım’s sons have paid in Turkey if they had conducted business through Turkish companies? How much has Turkey lost, and how much did they profit by moving their operations to Malta?” asked Sancar.

AKP deputy Mehmet Şükrü Erdinç defends PM Yıldırım’s sons and Albayrak and stated that “What we are witnessing today is a perception operation against the people. It is cheap politics to draw our prime minister into a perception operation. He is someone who led the people on July 15 (the failed coup attempt), has struggled for his people; he is a leading actor in the fight against corruption.”

According to a report by Ahval online news outlet, the HDP and the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), plan to submit another motion on the same subject. Yıldırım had said his sons do not have immunity and therefore can be investigated.

Data released on Nov. 5 by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) on the offshore activity of current or former leaders of famous companies and various countries indicate that the sons of the Turkish prime minister are involved in offshore holdings.

The data, known as the Paradise Papers, include over 13.4 million documents containing information on close to 120 political figures around the world and “show how deeply the offshore financial system is entangled with the overlapping worlds of political players, private wealth and corporate giants … that avoid taxes through increasingly imaginative bookkeeping maneuvers,” said ICIJ in its report.

According to the materials published by ICIJ, Erkam Yıldırım and Bülent Yıldırım are the adult sons of the Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım, whose family made its fortune in the shipping industry. The brothers are the sole shareholders of two companies registered in Malta: Hawke Bay Marine Co. Ltd., which was set up in April 2004 and according to public records owns or manages shipping vessels; and Black Eagle Marine Co. Ltd., incorporated in January 2007.

Record show that Erkam Yıldırım, who was the majority shareholder of the companies, is also the director of both and in addition operates his own shipping business.

The companies were listed as active in the Malta Registry of Companies in October 2017.

The Yıldırım brothers did not respond to a request for comment from ICIJ and its media partner in Turkey, Cumhuriyet.

The new files come from two offshore services firms as well as from 19 corporate registries maintained by governments in jurisdictions that serve as waystations in the global shadow economy. The leaks were obtained by German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared with ICIJ.

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) parliamentary group deputy chairman Özgür Özel lambasted Turkish PM Yıldırım on Monday over the Paradise Papers, which indicate that the sons of the Turkish prime minister are involved in offshore holdings, while CHP deputy Faik Öztrak called on Yıldırım to respond to revelations in the Paradise Papers.

Recalling that Binali Yıldırım always uses the terms “national” and “indigenous,” Özel said: “In order to conduct trade, their children establish companies in Malta. They call on people to use ‘national’ and ‘indigenous’ money, but they use American money.”

Özel claimed that Prime Minister Yıldırım will not discuss the visa crisis but will instead talk about marketing Turkey’s Wealth Fund and will seek support from the Jewish lobby during a visit to the US on Nov.7-11.

Strongly criticizing Yıldırım on Twitter, CHP deputy Öztrak has also said that “The prime minister, who recently presented a new budget bill to Parliament to collect TL 614 billion in duty from the public in 2018, should immediately issue a statement to the public regarding the revelations about his family’s offshore companies.”

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