Mansimov jailed in Turkey over Erdoğan’s fears and his allies’ desire to seize the billionaire’s assets

Turkish marina and yacht club owned by Mubariz Mansimov

Abdullah Bozkurt

 

To the surprise of many, Azeri billionaire Mubariz Mansimov Gurbanoğlu, who had dodged legal troubles many times in the past, from human trafficking charges to bribery allegations, suddenly finds himself behind bars in Turkey.

Nordic Monitor has talked to several sources who have knowledge in his case and learned that his arrest on March 15, 2020 was the result of a falling out with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his allies in a business conflict of interest and growing concern on the part of Turkey’s rulers that he had become a flight risk and might very well turn against the Erdoğan government in a possible federal case in the US that is looking into Erdoğan’s global wealth.

“I think this was about a turf battle in a profit-sharing and business conflict with the country’s rulers,” one source said, speaking on condition that he not be named. “Erdoğan and his nationalist allies have grown hungry amid a financial squeeze, and the billionaire’s assets and business interests stimulate their appetite,” he added.

Another source claimed that Erdoğan was very much concerned that Mansimov might flee the country and turn against him, just like an Iranian gold dealer who had bribed Erdoğan and other government officials agreed to be a government witness in a federal case in New York. “Mansimov and Erdoğan had had secret business deals which, if they are exposed, would put Erdoğan and his family members in a difficult position,” the source commented, also speaking anonymously. “The Turkish president has grown increasingly paranoid,” the second source remarked.

Both sources agreed that the charges against Mansimov on allegations that he belongs to government critic the Gülen movement are a farce and a smokescreen to hide the real reasons to keep him in jail. “He may be a lot of things, but he is definitely not Gülenist,” the first source, who has followed Mansimov’s career for years, concluded. “But it’s a convenient way to imprison somebody in Turkey on Gülen charges when millions have already been investigated and tens of thousands jailed on similar accusations,” he added.

A third source drew attention to Mansimov’s simmering problems with the Russian government, whose oil company Lukoil has had lingering problems with Mansimov companies. The source also highlighted that Mansimov has increasingly become a popular man in Azerbaijan, which irked President Ilham Aliyev, who has effectively killed any opposition in the country. “This was a win-win case for everybody except Mansimov. Erdoğan’s mafia allies also got a controlling stake in the Marina enterprise, which is a hub for gambling and drug trafficking,” the source explained.

Mansimov, who owns the Istanbul-based Palmali Group, which has interests in the oil, shipping, maritime, hospitality sectors, was the subject of criminal investigations between 2001 and 2013 on multiple counts including human trafficking and prostitution networks. Thanks to the close relations he cultivated with Erdoğan, he had managed to escape the long arm of the law. However, it appears his luck ran out when Mansimov and his allies including Erdoğan had a falling out over what was alleged to be a disagreement over business deals, or the level of mistrust Erdoğan had reached, so that the Turkish president wanted to keep him locked up just to be sure, or to teach him a lesson, according to people who are knowledgeable in such matters.

He had invested in Turkey, struck business agreements with the rulers of Azerbaijan and cooperated with President Erdoğan’s people, including his son and his brother, who run a shipping business. While he was increasing his wealth and acquiring new assets, he had developed interests in sports, tourism and hospitality, often making headlines in the Turkish media.

Mansimov’s name came up in the US during the trial of Levon Termendzhyan (Lev Aslan Dermen), an Armenian organized crime figure who was convicted by a Utah federal court in February 2020 in a fraud scheme that involved the Kingston brothers — head of Washakie Renewable Energy LLC Jacob Kingston and Chief Financial Officer Isaiah Kingston. The investigation revealed the Kingston brothers, who are linked to President Erdoğan in Turkey, squandered $500 million in tax subsidies and other crimes. Mansimov denied having any association with Termendzhyan, but Termendzhyan’s son George Termendzhyan stated in court that “Mansimov was our partner. Jointly with him, we established Palmali USA LLS in California in 2016 under my father’s instruction. Mubariz lies.” Termendzhyan and the Kingston brothers, jointly with Mubariz Mansimov, established the company, and Termendzhyan was appointed as a manager in the company on November 18, 2016.

 

At a wedding ceremony for a Turkish couple on October 2, 2016 Mansimov (L) seen posing with his Armenian partner Termenzhyan (2nd L) and Mehmet Ağar, a notorious nationalist politician and former police chief.

 

Suspect in human trafficking network

Mansimov’s track record casts a long shadow over his activities as a businessman who used his influence with politicians including President Erdoğan to promote his interests. Secret documents obtained by Nordic Monitor reveal that he was under investigation for his involvement in an illegal human trafficking network. As part of investigation case file no.2011/1062, Turkish prosecutor Hüseyin Aksoy secured warrants from the Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court on August 11, 2011 for the police to wiretap suspects’ phones and monitor their movements. In the preliminary investigation phase, the prosecutor listed 19 people as suspects including Mansimov on human trafficking, sex trafficking and prostitution charges.

 

Brief submitted to the prosecutor’s office by the police shows why Mansimov was listed as a suspect in a human trafficking network:

Mansimov_note1

 

According to several information notes submitted by the police to the prosecutor’s office after a preliminary investigation, Mansimov and other suspects were connected to an organized crime network that had been using Turkish and foreign women as escorts in sex schemes, treating foreign officials who visit Turkey to escorts in order to curry favor. Foreign women were lured to Turkey under false pretenses that they would be promoted as models when in fact they were used to entertain high-profile clients and have sex with them, according to the documents.

There were three cells in the network. The first one was led by a man named Ramaz Shamanauri, code-named Roma, a Georgian national and fashion designer who was bringing women in from Russia, Georgia and Azerbaijan for fashion shows, only to have them have sex with businesspeople after the runway events were over. He was the man who provided girls for Mansimov’s entertainment parties, often held on the billionaire’s luxury yacht in the resort city of Bodrum. Shamanauri’s broker was identified as a person named Lüba, who ran a modeling agency abroad.

According to the prosecutor’s file, in a wiretap dated May 30, 2011 at 20:45 hours, Mansimov called Shamanauri to ask him whether he knew Turkish model Özge Ulusoy and ordered him to work on her in an apparent suggestion that he wanted to include the model in his hunt for trophy women either for himself or his clientele. Shamanauri tried to reach out to her but failed, according to the wiretaps.

 

Police brief detailing suspects and their connections in the human trafficking and sex trafficking network:

Mansimov_note2

 

Some of the fashion shows organized by Shamanauri were financed by Mansimov, who then used the events to hook up with models and other women for entertainment on his boat. For example, Shamanauri staged a fashion show in Turkey’s seaside resort city of Bodrum on July 2, 2011 and brought models and singers to Mansimov’s yacht afterwards. In a wiretap recorded after the show, Fatih Berber — Mansimov’s right-hand man and a member of the board of Bodrum Yalıkavak Tourism who arranged women for Masimov — called Shamanauri to tell him to bring the women to the yacht after the show.

When Shamanauri asked who would be on the yacht, Berber said Mansimov would be there. There was also a discussion about singers who competed for the Eurovision song contest. “My girls are OK, they will do anything, but the modeling agency girls will stay only for the entertainment because they are regular models. If Mubariz wants it like that, we’ll call on the girls.” “No problem, [Mansimov] says, let them get on the boat and we’ll have some fun,” Berber replied after consulting with Mansimov. “Then we’ll pay them,” Shamanauri noted. “That’s OK, you talk about it [with the girls],” Berber answered, underlining that money was not an issue.

The investigation revealed that Shamanauri also provided women to Adnan Polat, former chairman of the popular Galatasaray football club.

 

Ramaz Shamanauri used modeling competitions and fashion shows to hide his human trafficking and sex trafficking network, according to the Turkish prosecutor’s indictment.

 

In an information note submitted to the prosecutor’s office on August 15, 2011, Turkish investigators briefed the prosecutor on how Shamanauri fixed up a girl up for sex with visiting Azerbaijani official Anar Memmedov, the son of then-Azeri transportation minister Ziya Memmedov Arzuman Oglu. Memmedov’s family members have built a fortune for themselves using their positions in the government and a network they developed.  According to an article in The New Yorker, Memmedov established a close relationship with the Darvishis, an Iranian family that has leadership positions in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

On August 12, 2011 at 20:37 hours Shamanauri called one of his girls, Rabia Karataş, saying that a friend of his, the son of a minister, had come to Turkey and asked whether she could meet with him. In an effort to give the escort woman an idea of who the client was, Shamanauri recalled a story in the Turkish press about singer Ebru Polat, who received an expensive Hermes bag from an Azeri fan. The 20,000 euro gift was covered by Turkish tabloid magazines when Polat said she was very happy to receive such a gift from a fan after a concert she did in Baku. The fan was nobody other than Anar Memmedov.

In another wiretap recorded the next day at 16:03, Shamanauri was called by a man named Özcan Yiğit, believed to be a manager at the Rixos Hotel, who conveyed a message from Anar Memmedov. “I was going to say that Anar asked me to tell you that you should send the pictures of three or four women, but never utter a single word to them [the women] about my name.” Anar was concerned that his sexual affair might be exposed and hurt him back home in Azerbaijan.

Shamanauri reassured the man, saying the girls didn’t know him and that he would give them a fake name for the client, anyway. “OK, you’ll send three or four pictures to this phone?” Yiğit said. Then Shamanauri asked whether Anar liked Turkish singer Nuray Ülker, who uses the stage name Kendi Land. Yiğit said Anar had not said anything about Kendi Land. “Well, tell him about her, and I will look for others as well,” Shamanauri replied.

 

Information note featuring wiretaps detailing how Shamanauri arranged women for sex:

Mansimov_note3

 

Some 15 minutes later, Yiğit called back and said in the email there were three names mentioned – singer Zennur, top model Günay Musayeva and Songül Erol – and added that Anar wanted both Musayeva and Songül. Shamanauri replied that he would take care of it right away.

On August 14, 2011, the day after he talked to Anar’s man about arranging women for sex, Shamanauri went to Bodrum accompanied by Ülker, Museyeneva, Turkish model Bahar Olgun and escort Müge Yaran. At 03:57 hours Yiğit called Shamanauri to tell him he would pay the money the next day. He also asked the women to sleep with another Azeri client and promised to pay double the usual fee. The two briefly talked about arrangements for each woman and whom they would have sex with for the night.

Giorgi Amirejibi, a Georgian national and designer, was also a target of the investigation. He was connected to Shamanauri, and investigators were trying to find out what role he played in the scheme.

On an information note submitted to the prosecutor’s office on February 22, 2011 escort Aleyna Öztürk was called by an unidentified person who asked whether she could go to the Four Seasons Hotel in Istanbul to meet a visiting Georgian official named Levan Varshalomizde. Öztürk said she could go to the hotel with her friend Tatiana Liskina. “Room number 2012, and he will be there in 15 minutes,” the person said. Varshalomizde was the head of government of Georgia’s autonomous Adjara region at the time. He was recently tapped to be chair of the United Investment Office in Ukraine. Turkish police monitored the hotel after intercepting the conversation and observed that Varshalomizde pulled into the hotel parking lot, accompanied by an escort vehicle provided by the Turkish government.

In the investigation case file, the Turkish escort women who worked for the gang were listed as Elif Gedikli, Esra Usta, Özlem Yağmur Uygun, Meltem Akveren, Rabia Karataş, Melike Gül, Yıldız Erol and Gamze Bilgiç. Their connections to government officials and high-profile people in Turkey were also mapped out during the investigation. For example, escort Gedikli was identified as having had sex with Şeyhmus Nasıroğlu, the mayor of Midyat in the southeastern province of Mardin. Nasıroğlu, who is married with four children, is still mayor of the city today and a member of Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Sultan Demir, who works in the advertising department of Pana Film, a Turkish production company that produces television series and motion pictures, was another suspect in the case. Demir was revealed to be a fixer of women for Pana Film director Tayyar Raci Şaşmaz, who produced the popular and nationalist TV series “Valley of the Wolves” (Kurtlar Vadisi). Another Demir client was Ümit Günay, who has business interests in Ankara-based TV network Beyaz, owned by former Ankara Mayor Melih Gökçek and his family.

 

More secret documents revealing the activities of the human/sex trafficking network:

Mansimov_note4

 

While Shamanauri was running the first cell in the sex trafficking network, Fatma Yılmaz, also a suspect in a similar network, was the leader of the second cell. She was a producer at the now-defunct Turkish TNT television station, a joint venture between the American TNT network and the Turkish Doğan media outlet. She was identified as a contact person who sent women to Turkish businesspeople for sex and other purposes. Her clients included high-profile figures in the Turkish business community such as Erman Yerdelen, who was chairman of the board of the Doğuş Media Group until 2018 and currently serves as a board member; Mustafa Serdar Angin, a businessman who was involved with Turkish construction and contracting firm Enka; Kerem Pınar Dal, chairman of advertising and communications firm Matador İletişim ve Reklamcılık Ltd. Şti.; Aziz Tayfun Topal, a movie producer; and Mustafa Ezici, former owner of edible seed oil producer Ezici Yağ.

Cihan Guler, a nightclub owner, was another pimp who arranged women for clients. He worked with suspect Mahmut Dalyaprak, who had a job in the tourism business. Aleyna Balabanli, the leader of a third cell in the network, was a fixer who sent women to a businessman Yusuf Kaya, one of the owners of Turkish construction firm İşkaya İnşaat San. ve Tic. A.Ş. Şirketi.

Dinçer Dinçsoy, who had a criminal record for drugs and prostitution and currently works as a hair stylist, was also listed as a suspect in the case. Mahmut Dalyaprak, who works in the tourism sector, acted as a pimp for İbrahim Yazıcı, former chairman of the Bursaspor football club.

In March 2012, 10 suspects including Shamanauri and four other foreign nationals were detained by the police under orders from prosecutor Sadrettin Sarıkaya. Shamanauri was released pending trial. The indictment was filed in January 2014 against 14 suspects. It is not clear what happened with the court case, but Mansimov was spared from criminal charges although he was listed as a suspect at the outset and there was some evidence linking him to operatives in the human trafficking network.

 

Ramaz Shamanauri, aka Roma, led a cell in a human trafficking and prostitution ring in Turkey.

 

Mansimov shaken by match-fixing scandal

Two wiretaps recorded on July 4, 2011 show that Mansimov was rattled by a match-fixing scandal that was exposed a day earlier when the police raided the homes of prominent people in the football world as well as football club premises, detaining some 60 people suspected of rigging football matches in two leagues. Many high-ranking football officials from various clubs, including Fenerbahçe and Beşiktaş, were arrested on charges of fraud and match-fixing during the 2010-11 season. A total of 31 individuals, including agents, former football players and club managers, were jailed pending trial, with Fenerbahçe Club Chairman Aziz Yıldırım the highest-profile figure.

Mansimov, who is very close to Yıldırım, was concerned that he might be in trouble as well and was hunkering down. He had investments in Turkish football, and his man, Alaattin Aykaç, the CEO of Mansimov company the Palmali group, was part of the management of the Beşiktaş football club, which was mentioned in the match-fixing investigation.

On July 4 at 19:13 hours, Shamanauri called Meltem Akveren, one of his escort women who worked at a nightclub in Bodrum, complaining about a phone call he had earlier had with Mansimov. “I called him directly. He told me, ‘Don’t talk about such things on the phone’,” he said. “Who is saying this?” Akveren asked. “Mubariz [Mansimov],” replied Shamanauri. “What is he saying?” Akveren further inquired. “His [Mansimov’s] friend became a problem, I don’t want to mention his name, he told me not to talk about such things on the phone and said he would call me later,” Shamanauri explained. At 22:01 hours, Shamanauri called Akveren again, trying to find out what was going on. “The situation of Mubariz is not good, his friend was taken [into police custody) after that event [police roundup of suspects in the match-fixing investigation],” Shamanauri informed Akveren.

The match fixing case cast a shadow over the country’s multi-billion dollar league. The investigation was expanded and, in the end, İstanbul prosecutor Mehmet Berk indicted 93 suspects in December 2011. According to the indictment, Yıldırım and Former Giresunspor Chairman Olgun Peker, the prime suspect in the case, were accused of establishing and running a criminal organization to generate illegal profits, committing fraud and engaging in match fixing. The Fenerbahçe chairman faced six charges of fraud, four for match-fixing and three for incentive payment (bribing the opposing team).

 

Mubariz Mansimov Gurbanoğlu owns a fleet of tankers, freighters and oil platforms, some of which were built in Turkey’s shipyards.

 

Yıldırım remained behind bars for one year in pretrial detention on charges of rigging matches to ensure Fener’s championship and was later released pending trial. The trial ended in July 2012, and 48 suspects were convicted. Yıldırım and six others were sentenced to jail time. The 5th Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals in January 2014 upheld Yıldırım’s conviction of match-fixing, sending him back to prison to serve the remainder of his sentence.

Yıldırım, regarded as the most powerful man in Turkish football, made a secret deal with Erdoğan to extricate himself from all charges in exchange for his and the fans’ support in elections. Fener, known as the Yellow Canaries, is believed to have the largest number of fans across Turkey. With the intervention of the government in 2014, İstanbul Public Prosecutor Hasan Yılmaz, an Erdoğan loyalist, demanded the acquittal of Yıldırım, claiming that he was the victim of a plot. In a quick retrial, all his crimes were whitewashed, on October 9, 2015, by the Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court. The appeal is still pending.

 

Trade registry data showing Mansimov was a member of the board of Erdoğan’s favorite Istanbul football team, Kasımpaşa:

Kasimpasa_Mansimov

 

In addition to his involvement with Beşiktaş, Mansimov was also connected to Istanbul’s Kasımpaşa football team, which is cherished by Erdoğan, who had played for the team during his youth. Erdoğan promoted Kasımpaşa when he became prime minister and later as president and enlisted the help of businesspeople close to him in order fund the operations of the club and turn it into a major football club. Mansimov was a member of the board of the team’s operating company, Kasımpaşa Sportif Faaliyetler Anonim Şirketi, according to trade registry data from 2011. Mehmet Cengiz and Mehmeht Fatih Sarac, who were on the board at the same time as Mansimov, were later investigated on multiple criminal charges, from corruption to tender rigging.

Mansimov exposed in Iran sanctions busting scheme

The largest corruption investigations in Turkey’s history, made public in December 2013, implicated Mansimov as well. His name surfaced when police raided the home of Barış Güler, the son of then-Interior Minister Muammer Güler and an associate of Reza Zarrab, an Iranian gold trader who often bribed the Turkish minister to promote and safeguard his illegal activities. Mansimov was already under investigation by the financial crimes department of the İstanbul Police Department, which conducted the investigation into Zarrab and his associates. The police, in their search of the home of Güler’s son, found seven safes, a banknote counter and a ledger with names. One safe alone contained nearly $1.5 million as well as some euros and Turkish lira.

In the ledger, Barış listed all the bribes he had taken not only from Zarrab but from other businesspeople. Mansimov’s name was also in these notes. According to the testimony of Police Chief Yakub Saygılı, who coordinated the investigations, Barış was paid for his work to secure citizenship papers on behalf of Mansimov, and the ledger listed Mansimov as paying $20,000 for a single job. Along with Mansimov’s name, Reşat Abdulayev and Anar Alizade were also mentioned in the ledger. Saygılı testified during a hearing at the Istanbul 14th High Criminal Court on December 3, 2018 and accused the new prosecutors, who were appointed to hush up the corruption probes, of removing the seized evidence from the case file in order to whitewash the crimes of President Erdoğan and his associates. No wonder Mansimov rushed to the courthouse in Bakırköy to obtain permission to visit Barış in Metris Prison in Istanbul when Barış was arrested and jailed pending trial.

 

A money counter and cash were found in the home of former Interior Minister Muammer Güler’s son, Barış Güler, on December 17, 2013.

 

According to the evidence in the corruption case file, an agreement was reached among Interior Minister Güler, Güler’s son Barış and Zarrab that Zarrab would pay $1 million for each member of his organization granted Turkish citizenship. Zarrab is said to have paid a total of nearly $2.5 million for his men to acquire Turkish citizenship. Moreover, Güler intervened to eliminate problems experienced by Zarrab’s front companies with Chinese banks. He sent the Chinese banks a letter of reference for Zarrab as the Turkish interior minister despite the fact that he was not authorized to so. Güler also accepted a bribe of $1.5 million from Zarrab for the provision of a police escort that would prevent Zarrab from being pulled over by the police.

According to the investigation, Güler’s son received bribes amounting to more than TL 20 million. Seemingly in an effort to hide the bribes, Zarrab and Güler signed a consultancy contract worth $720,000. Police Chief Orhan İnce was transferred out of İstanbul after Zarrab complained to Güler that the police chief had informed the Finance Ministry’s Financial Crimes Investigation Board (MASAK) of his illegal activities. Zarrab paid $400,000 to have Orhan removed. In June 2013 İnce was first transferred to a post in Osmaniye and then to Zonguldak. In order to alleviate Zarrab’s unease about the police chief, Minister Güler said in a wiretapped telephone conversation: “I will get rid of [him]. … Don’t worry. He should watch what he is doing. I will have him fired.”

 

Seven safes and a large amount of cash were found in the home of former Interior Minister Muammer Güler’s son, Barış Güler, on Dec. 17, 2013.

 

Separately, in the human trafficking investigation, the police found that Birol Tokat, a close friend of Turkish singer Serdar Ortaç, had been fixing up women for Ortaç, a known womanizer. In a wiretap dated February 23, 2012, Tokat was recorded as talking to an unidentified man about Zarrab. The person asked Tokat to bring Zarrab to a casino as he had heard Zarrab gambled and had lots of money. Tokat said he would bring Zarrab to the casino.

Zarrab was arrested in December 2013 in Turkey on multiple criminal charges in a separate case, but Erdoğan hushed up the investigation and secured his release. However, Zarrab was arrested by the FBI in Miami in March 2016, and US federal prosecutors charged nine defendants, including Zarrab, bank employees, the former Turkish economy minister and other participants in the same scheme. On October 26, 2017, Zarrab, the key suspect in the scheme, pled guilty to seven counts after reaching a plea deal. He became a government witness who confessed he had bribed Turkish government officials. On January 3, 2018, a jury convicted former Halkbank deputy general manager Mehmet Hakan Atilla of five of the six counts with which he was charged following a five-week trial.  The remaining defendants who are in Turkey did not show up to testify in the trial.

Mansimov’s ties to the Erdoğan government

Mansimov has cultivated ties with President Erdoğan throughout the years. A former soldier, Mansimov moved to Turkey in 1998, became a Turkish citizen in 2007 and assumed the Turkish last name Gurbanoğlu. He was one of the 10 richest people in Turkey in the 2013-2014 period and was named one of the 500 richest people in the world in 2015 by Forbes magazine. In a web of complicated schemes that involved tax haven islands, Mansimov and Turkish businessman Sidki Ayan, a man who was flagged for helping Iran evade sanctions and who worked closely with Erdoğan, jointly helped a company owned by Erdoğan’s son, brother and brother-in-law to acquire a multi-million dollar oil tanker.

 

Mehmet Ali Yalçındağ (L), the CEO of Turkey Yandex, next to Palmarina CEO Mubaruz Mansimov (2nd L), who jointly sponsored a sailing competition in Istanbul in September 2014.

 

Mansimov appeared in a photo next to Mehmet Ali Yalçındağ during the award ceremony for the Extreme Sailing Series (ESS) tournament in Istanbul in September 2014. The games were sponsored by Palmarina’s CEO Mansimov and Yandex Turkey CEO Yalçındağ. Leaked emails of Erdoğan’s son-in-law Berat Albayrak in 2016 revealed that Yalçındağ worked closely with Erdoğan behind closed doors and helped steer the editorial policies of Doğan media outlets in favor of Erdoğan. He was later rewarded with the position of chairman of the Turkey-US Business Council (TAİK), part of the Foreign Economic Relations Board (DEİK), the business arm of President Erdoğan. Yalçındağ was also the man who brought US President Donald Trump’s real estate empire into Istanbul in 2012 and developed relations with Trump and his family members. He was believed to be one of the key operatives of the Erdoğan government in lobbying Trump’s White House on behalf of Erdoğan.

In March 2015 Mansimov’s Palmali Group won the tender for the operating rights of another marina located in Tilkicik Bay in Bodrum for 370 million Turkish lira. The property has tourism facilities as well. Mansimov’s ties with Erdoğan continued to benefit his business empire.

 

BMZ Group Denizcilik, owned by family members of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, had this freighter constructed in an Istanbul shipyard for $18 million in 2014.

 

In December 2014 Mansimov was among the special guests who were invited to the launching of a freighter constructed for Erdoğan family shipping company BMZ (derived from the initials of its three partners: President Erdoğan’s son Bilal, his brother Mustafa and his sister’s husband Zeki). The freighter, the Begim Aslanova, had a 7,150 DWT capacity. The funds for the construction in the Turkish shipyard were provided by Manimov’s Palmali Group. Mehmet Kemal Ağar, a notorious nationalist politician and former minister, was also among the invited guests.

This was not the first time Ağar and Mansimov had shown up together. In August 2013 Mansimov hosted Ağar and Deniz Baykal, former chairman of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), in a restaurant located in his marina. Ağar, who was opposed to Erdoğan, later struck a deal with him and helped facilitate a massive purge in the police department starting in 2014. He brought nationalists and controversial figures with mafia ties into the management of the country’s main law enforcement agency, the Security General Directorate. Today, politically motivated criminal prosecutions are believed to have been instigated by Ağar and his team in close coordination with Erdoğan’s office. A Turkish government insider told Nordic Monitor that Ağar was the mastermind in orchestrating the criminal charges against Mansimov and putting him in jail in order to force him to give up his business interests, which includes profitable oil contracts with Russia and Azerbaijan.

 

News clipping from the Zaman daily on August 20, 2013 that reveals Mehmet Ağar’s meeting with Deniz Baykal in Mansimov’s marina.

 

Both Ağar and his son Zülfü Tolga Ağar were listed as members of the board of Mansimov’s Bodrum Yalıkavak Marina, operated by Bodrum Yalıkavak Turizm ve Yat Limanı Yatırımları Ticaret A.Ş.

 

Trade registry data from October 2018 shows both Ağar and his son Tolga had seats on the board of directors:

yalikavak_mehmet_agar

 

 

Mehmet Kemal Ağar and his son Zülfü Tolga Ağar were listed as members of the board of Mansimov’s Bodrum Yalıkavak Marina, operated by Bodrum Yalıkavak Turizm ve Yat Limanı Yatırımları Ticaret A.Ş.

 

Mansimov’s name was also mentioned in a controversy surrounding the events of July 15, 2016, when Erdoğan faced a failed putschist mobilization, called an attempted coup by the government yet disputed by critics who claimed it was actually a false flag operation. Four planes were mysteriously readied in the vicinity of the hotel in Marmaris where Erdoğan and his family were staying at the time. Mansimov’s private plane with tail number TC-MMM was one of those planes. On July 15, his plane landed at 12:40 hours at Dalaman Airport, which is about an hour and a quarter’s drive from Marmaris, The plane later moved to  Bodrum Milas Airport at 13:15 hours and waited there.

During trials concerning the coup attempt, several suspects in their defense presented the positioning of Mansimov’s plane and other private aircraft as evidence that Erdoğan knew about the putschist attempt in advance and that was why the pilots and crews were instructed to park at airports close to where Erdoğan would stay during his vacation. Critics argued that the planes were prepared to move Erdoğan and his family members out of Turkey in the event the false flag operation did not pan out the way Erdoğan and his defense and intelligence chiefs had contemplated.

 

The route of Mansimov’s private plane with tail number TC-MMM on July 15, 2016.

 

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