A TV commentator who put a target on the backs of foreign journalists covering Turkey’s offensive across the Turkish-Syrian border has turned out to a crooked military intelligence officer who served time in prison for involvement in a sex trafficking and human smuggling network, secret documents have revealed.
Coşkun Başbuğ, a retired colonel, has frequently appeared in the last several weeks on the A-Haber news network, owned by the family of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, as an expert on military affairs, commenting on developments in Syria. TV footage reviewed by Nordic Monitor showed that he frequently raised questions as to the motives of foreign journalists covering Turkey’s military offensive in Syria from Turkish border provinces. He accused them of working for intelligence agencies, manufacturing news stories and spreading lies and fake news.
Başbuğ also appears on other government and pro-government networks including state-broadcaster TRT, peddling anti-US and anti-Israel views in his commentaries. He often spouts conspiracies without offering any evidence to back up his claims. With his narrative, he appears to be a perfect candidate for the pro- Erdoğan propaganda machine, doing this job practically every day on various networks.
Başbuğ frequently appeared on A-Haber from a field news desk in Akçakale, located in the border province of Şanlıurfa, directly across from the Syrian Arab town of Tal Abyad:
Foreign reporters on the ground near Turkish-Syrian border were portrayed as agents who disseminate fake & distorted news. A retired colonel Coskun Basbug describes nearly all as not reporters, while presenter concurs with his assessment. A-Haber TV is a network owned by #Erdogan pic.twitter.com/hTWnJ3vUpJ
— Abdullah Bozkurt (@abdbozkurt) October 12, 2019
However, the confidential documents about Başbuğ reveal he was investigated and charged with involvement in a secret gang that used women including foreign nationals in a sex trafficking and prostitution ring. Overwhelming evidence was collected against him in the course of an investigation that was launched in Turkey’s western Izmir province.
Başbuğ was a retired colonel when he took a job in 2010 as general manager of the Marmaris Yacht Club owned by Bilgin Özkaynak, the ringleader of the gang. The two later had a falling out, and Başbuğ was fired.
While in the military, Başbuğ worked as an intelligence officer specializing in psychological operations. After his retirement, he hooked up with Özkaynak to set up a honey trap scheme to blackmail government officials and force them to hand over top secret documents so that the gang could sell them to the highest bidder. His code name in the gang was Coco, and he was one of seven coordinators working under Özkaynak.
The document showing how Başbuğ interacted with intelligence agency MIT in pursuit of his clandestine activities in the sex trafficking ring:basbug2
The report prepared by Başbuğ under the file name “Tüm Verilerim,” seized from Özkaynak, shows how Turkish military personnel were profiled. It listed officers who had relations with transvestites and named officers who were gay. The document shows he listed 193 officers as having ties to trans people and 13 as being gay. He also included contacts with 58 generals in the same document.
The documents show Başbuğ even wrote a manual on how prostitutes were to operate. The orders were very specific for escort women on how to act and extract information from clients, all government employees or military personnel.
According to the instructions provided by Başbuğ, the officers marked for a honey trap were determined by him. When the mark was lured for sex, the women were instructed to record the sexual encounters, profile the clients and determine their weaknesses. He ordered VIP treatment for some clients he identified as high value targets. Archived videos would be used to coerce clients to bring more documents and share sensitive information if they showed an unwillingness to continue, according to Başbuğ’s instructions.
Wiretapped communications of Başbuğ with intelligence agents:basbug3
He also organized an Internet scheme through the MSN chat-line to use women as bait to lure officers. He asked the prostitutes to convince their clients during the chat to undress and masturbate so that they could record them during the act. The women were rewarded according to the importance of the information they managed to extract from their clients.
A wiretap authorized by a court allowing the police to track his communications showed that Başbuğ had been working with agents from the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) and had developed assets within MIT, turning some agents into assets. For example, in a wiretap dated December 31, 2011, he was recorded talking to MIT agent Ismail Hakki Yurttakalan (born March 21, 1967). The two met and had lunch in Ankara on November 29, 2011.
Another wiretap recorded MIT agent Hasan Duru (born December 15, 1960) offering him a job at a Hyundai car dealership after Başbuğ parted ways with Özkaynak. On November 18, 2011 Başbuğ went to Ankara to meet with Duru at MIT headquarters and spent the night in a government housing complex next to the offices. The two went to Istanbul the next day to meet a woman named Dilara Erol, who had flown in from abroad and took a special passport (Yeşil, or green, passport, which is issued only to government employees) from her and returned to Ankara.
The investigation file included Başbuğ’s secret notes about profiled gay military officers and those who had sexual relations with transvestites:basbug7
The Word document written by Başbuğ listed the names of several MIT officers along with their profiles, including their weaknesses and soft spots, political views and family members. The investigators concluded that Başbuğ had been trying to recruit more MIT agents to his own network and was using Duru and Yurttakalan to gather more information about the agency and its agents.
The discovery of Başbuğ and other gang members’ illegal activities was made after police in Izmir received a tip on August 10, 2010 that informed the authorities about a sex trafficking and human smuggling network that was involved in blackmail, prostitution, privacy violations and other criminal activities. Police briefed the prosecutor’s office on the tip and submitted preliminary research on the people named in the tip. The prosecutor on October 26, 2010 ordered the organized crime unit to investigate the claims and suspects named in the whistleblower’s account.
Investigators discovered that Başbuğ was using the code name Coco and was one of seven coordinators in the network:Basbug1
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 learn more about the gang and map out the network.
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 manual prepared by Başbuğ gave guidelines to escort women in the gang on how to extract information from a mark in exchange for sex:basbug4
The first wave of arrests was launched on May 9-10, 2012 at the order of prosecutors, and additional criminal evidence was gathered from the homes and offices of suspects during the execution of search and seizure warrants. More arrests were made after further evidence was obtained from the suspects and their homes and workplaces. In the end 357 suspects including 55 active duty officers and numerous retired officers were indicted when the prosecutor filed criminal charges against the gang in 2013.
The indictment also revealed how NATO and US security was compromised. For example, NATO documents such as the assets and capabilities of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EAD) units operating in every NATO member state, secret US and NATO directives in bomb-making and bomb-diffusion techniques, FBI bomb-making analyses, electronic warfare data used in the NATO alliance, technical, tactical and procedural data for F-16s and sensitive information on US-made Hawk medium-range surface-to-air missile systems.
Başbuğ gave detailed instructions to escort women, video recorded the sexual encounters and ordered them to provide VIP treatment to clients who provided valuable classified documents:Basbug6
However, the criminal case against the gang members was quashed by the Erdoğan government, and all the suspects were let go. Başbuğ served two-and-a-half years in detention before he was released. Many returned to their duties in the Turkish military, advancing up the ladder despite their controversial records. Başbuğ was hired by the Erdoğan-family-owned news network A-Haber and now regularly appears on shows to comment on Turkey’s foreign policy, military operations and security interests.
In the meantime, prosecutors, judges and police investigators who uncovered this massive espionage ring were punished either by dismissal or arrest on trumped-up charges.
Başbuğ tells the escort women to keep a record of phone conversations with clients and to use video recordings to blackmail those who refuse to cooperate if necessary:basbug5