Two intelligence officers who were involved in an organized crime and sex trafficking network were saved from criminal prosecution by the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a review of confidential documents by Nordic Monitor has revealed.
The agents of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT), identified in secret documents as Ismail Hakki Yurttakalan (born March 21, 1967) and Hasan Duru (born December 15, 1960), had been found to be working with key suspects in an organized crime gang operating out of Turkey’s western province of Izmir. The gang was using honey traps using escort women, including some foreign nationals, to extract confidential documents from Turkish government employees as well as NATO ally officers who were deployed to Turkey.
The discovery of MIT’s involvement in the organized crime syndicate was made after the police in Izmir received a tip on August 10, 2010 that informed the authorities about a sex trafficking and human smuggling network which was involved in blackmail, prostitution, privacy violations and further criminal activities. Police briefed the prosecutor’s office about the tip and submitted preliminary research on the people named in the tip. The prosecutor ordered the Organized Crime Unit on October 26, 2010 to investigate the claims and suspects named in the whistleblower’s account.
The report, dated December 3, 2010, shows the police investigated the claims made in the tip and identified nine people, including Russian and Belarusian women who were involved in the gang. The report indicated that the gang forced women to engage in sex, seized the passports of foreign women who were lured to Turkey and forced to work in honey trap schemes. The gang was recording the sexual encounters to blackmail government officials. The report showed that the police obtained wiretap authorizations from the court in order to find our more about the gang and map out the network.
Copy of the preliminary report on the gang:
The investigators had worked on the case for two years, obtained wiretaps from the courts and ran surveillance on suspects to decode the network. It turned out the gang was much more than a sex trafficking network and resembled more of an espionage group collecting top secret information from various government and military officials through honey traps, sexual favors or blackmail. Among the thousands of pages of secret documents were classified NATO and FBI documents that were shared with the Turkish government as a member of the alliance.
The first wave of arrests was launched on May 9-10, 2012 at the order of prosecutors, and more criminal evidence was gathered from the homes and offices of suspects during the execution of search and seizure warrants. The police detained 28 people in the first wave including nine active duty military officers. According to the internal memo submitted to the Smuggling and Organized Crime Department (KOM) in Ankara on May 11, 2012, a copy of which was obtained by Nordic Monitor, investigators drew up profiles of the detained suspects and the content of the sized materials from the suspects. In the memo the investigators also named two MIT officers, Yurttakalan and Duru, as accomplices to the gang and stated that they were awaiting the instructions of the prosecutor as to what to do with them.
Both MIT officers were closely affiliated with retired Col. Coşkun Başbuğ, who was working as manager of the Marmaris Yacht Marina, owned by Bilgin Özkaynak, the leader of the gang and the number one suspect in the investigation file. The wiretaps revealed Başbuğ’s shady ties with MIT intelligence officers. The assessment made by investigators indicated that MIT was involved in the dirty schemes and had to be incorporated in the investigation file, indicted and stand trial.
However, while investigators were mapping out MIT’s role in the illicit sex trade and human smuggling network, the Erdoğan government rushed an intelligence bill amendment through parliament on February 17, 2012, providing more immunity for the MIT officials from the criminal probes. It required that prosecutors obtain the permission of the government to continue the investigation against the MIT officials. The reason for the government action was to cover up MIT’s trail in aiding and abetting jihadist groups in Syria as well as to save agents who were caught in armed and bombing attacks that took place in Istanbul but blamed on the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Istanbul prosecutors had to issue a summons to MIT Undersecretary Hakan Fidan to respond to the allegations, but Erdoğan intervened and made changes to the intelligence bill in parliament using the majority he controlled.
The police memo that revealed the identity of the MIT intelligence officers who were involved in the sex trafficking and human smuggling gang:Izmir_casusluk_mit_elemanlari_watermarked
As a result, the Izmir prosecutor decided to not press charges against MIT officers Yurttakalan and Duru, thinking that the Erdoğan government would not allow their prosecution. Although the intelligence officers were not indicted, the criminal investigation file made public MIT’s role in the gang. In addition to the two officers, 14 more MIT officials were exposed in the investigation file, which showed that MIT’s involvement was not accidental but rather part of a deliberate or systematic plot. In other words, the agents that were identified by the prosecutors were not operatives who went rogue.
In the indictment, 357 suspects including 55 active duty officers and numerous retired officers were named when the prosecutor filed criminal charges against the gang in 2013. The indictment also mentions 831 victims and 196 co-plaintiffs.
According to the indictment, the gang hired foreign women as prostitutes to send to military officers from whom the gang eventually obtained classified military information. The gang’s main objective was to make money through the sale of confidential military documents to third parties, according to the indictment. The gang, which included civilian suspects, infiltrated the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and had many members from inside the military, who facilitated its activities in establishing contact with high-ranking officers and obtaining confidential documents from them.
The telephone registry records for MIT agent Ismail Hakki Yurttakalan according to the Telecommunication Authority (TIB):Ismail_Hakki_Yurttakalan_telefon_redacted1
The indictment revealed how NATO and US security was compromised. For example, NATO documents seized from suspect Narin Korkmaz during the execution of a search warrant identified Alparslan Yücel Soysal, also a suspect in the case, as revealing in detail the assets and capabilities of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EAD) units operating in every NATO member state. The note next to his name clearly singles out Russia, China and Iran as potential clients for these documents.
A suspect named Bülent Karaaslan, a bomb expert, supplied secret US and NATO directives in bomb-making and bomb-diffusion techniques to the spy ring. Suspect Aydın Şit, an air force officer, handed over FBI bomb-making analyses to the gang that explained, among other things, how to make improvised bombs manually and where in the car these bombs should be planted. Suspect Ersin Kapucu, an air force pilot, was identified as an important source for electronic warfare data and information on how it is used in the Turkish Air Force (THK) and NATO. He supplied 22 power point presentation files dated 2009. A note in his file says he was soon expected to supply pass codes, which the gang believed would be very beneficial.
The gang obtained from a mark named İsmail Demir a hard copy of top secret details on AIM-120 missiles used in Turkish F-16 fighter jets. The note advises that he be rewarded for supplying this sensitive information. Another mark named Andaç Keskin, an officer at the field corps school of engineering in İzmir, was identified as an important asset in hooking up with NATO officers. The note about him says he knows many NATO officers and coordinates logistics for them. It says Keskin operated out of the Aktur Hotel in İzmir, where many NATO officers stayed, in a room fitted with surveillance equipment.
Suspect Nuri Dereli, a flight lieutenant, supplied the gang with a very sensitive file titled “Tur_AEM_F16.pdf,” which is 954 pages long in English and classified as “Secret Releasable to USA, TUR.” It details technical, tactical and procedural data for F-16s. The note attached to this file says it should not be obtained by anybody else. It even warned that when a file of a similar nature was previously leaked, it created problems between Turkey and the US. “I repeat it should not be leaked in order not to experience similar problems with the US,” the note added.
Similarly, suspect Okay Yalçın, an air force officer, leaked sensitive information on US-made Hawk medium-range surface-to-air missile systems, including a 24-page secret document titled “60G-2-2-70 Hawk Passive Engagement System.pdf.” Another set of documents seized from suspect Saygın Özdemir details performance reports of pilots assigned to the 151st squadron and their evaluations on war preparedness. A document titled “F-1” reveals frequencies and positions pilots use with ground control at the 5th Air Base and was described as vital information that cannot be allowed to be leaked to the enemy in wartime. Another document explains how the ammunition loaded on F-16s should be used and under what conditions. It says this document cannot be transferred to any country other than Turkey and the US. A document leaked by Gökhan Gülbalar explains the nuts and bolts of a signal intelligence system named Milsis-23u, used within the General Staff’s Electronic Systems Command (GES), the military’s most comprehensive and top secret communications interception unit.
The indictment also said the spy ring sent some of the confidential military documents to terrorist groups, endangering the security of the state and its citizens. The suspects are also accused of hiring foreign women as prostitutes to send to military officers. The prostitutes would illegally obtain personal information about these officers and blackmail them into providing the spy ring with classified information. The group was based in İzmir and had branches in a number of other provinces.
Documents seized from suspected members of the espionage ring showed that it kept tabs on dozens of military officers due to their ideological or religious backgrounds.
The indictment also identified the leader of the spy ring as Bilgin Özkaynak, a businessman, and Korkmaz, a young university student, as his aide. The prosecutor demanded life sentences for 11 suspects, including Özkaynak and Korkmaz, on accusations of establishing and running an illegal organization; illegally obtaining secret military and personal information; sharing that information with third parties; and endangering state security.
According to the indictment, Korkmaz had a false military ID that showed her as a lieutenant colonel, and she was free to enter military barracks and units wearing a uniform, thanks to the ID. Prosecutors added a few photos of Korkmaz taken when she was wearing a military uniform.
The indictment also included excerpts from documents seized from the espionage gang that clearly show how members forced military officers to give them confidential military information after video taping them in sexual encounters with the foreign women hired by the gang. “We obtained the [military] plans for attack and defense in the event of a war in the Black Sea thanks to photos obtained by T.D. T.D. will serve as our eyes and ears in the military from now on. M.T.A. says he liked the blonde we sent him. We have footage of sexual intercourse between General A.L.T.’s son T with E.İ. We also have footage of General Ş.’s daughter. We will follow them all,” read the documents.
The criminal case against the gang members was quashed by the Erdoğan government, and all suspects were let go. Many returned to their duties in the Turkish military, advancing in the ranks despite their controversial records.
Prosecutors, judges and police investigators who uncovered this massive espionage ring were punished either by dismissal or arrest on trumped-up charges.
The telephone registry records for MIT agent Hasan Duru according to the Telecommunication Authority (TIB):Hasan_Duru_telefon_redacted1