SUNDAY,MARCH 24, 2019

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Turkey-Qatar defence deal, a cover for financial evasion

According to Turkey’s Anadolu Agency, Turkey and Qatar entered into a military agreement, which was signed between Qatar Armed Forces and the Turkish aircraft manufacturer 'Baykar Machinery' during Doha International Maritime Defence Exhibition and Conference (Dimdex) in March 2018.  As per the agreement, the Arab nation is set to receive six Bayraktar TB2, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) platforms, three ground control station systems and equipment, and a simulator from the Turkish company in 2019. First on the delivery list is the TB2.   On February 2, 2019, Turkish aerospace media outlet Kokpit.aero reported that Qatar’s order of six Bayraktar TB2s and three ground control stations is ready for export. The report also revealed that as part of the deal 55 Qatari military personnel have received a 4-month long training program on the operation of the UCAVs.  Bayraktar TB2' is a medium altitude and long-range (MALE) tactical UAV, which provides operational information to the centers of armed forces during its mission in the air, along with carrying two small missiles.   What looks like a simple deal on the face of it, could be a cover for avoiding double taxation and for enabling financial evasion, by the Turkish company, a part of which is believed to be owned by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.   According to the investigations reported by Nordic Monitor, the Qatar-Turkey agreement was submitted to Parliament on Dec. 5, 2018, only three days after the Turkish president spoke at a defense summit in Ankara where he said that both the public and private sectors, (irrespective of industries from finance to human resources and technology), would collectively participate in the defense industry.   The suspicion around the deal surfaced when the Turkish Government passed  the deal through parliament to approve in advance Erdogan’s decision to hand over a $ 20 billion tank plant to a company operated by his partners and the Qatari army.   The deal, the avoidance of double taxation agreement, came just before the Erdoğan government presented a multibillion-dollar national tank factory on favorable terms to Turkish-Qatari armored vehicle manufacturer BMC, a company run by Ethem Sancak, a member of the MKYK executive body of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). The tank factory was given for a 25 year period to BMC allegedly without any competitive bidding or transparent process. What makes this interesting is that 49.9 percent of BMC’s shares belong to the Qatari Armed Forces,  Sancak owns 25 percent and the Öztürk family (Ahmet Öztürk, Talip Öztürk, and Taha Yasin Öztürk) owns 25.1 percent. There is a belief in some quarters that President Erdoğan is actually the real owner of BMC and Sancak is merely a front. The Öztürk family, on the other hand, is known to have mafia links to Galip Öztürk, a convicted murderer and head of an organized crime network. Galip is perceived by many to be close to the Turkish president.   All of which casts a shadow over Turkey’s defence deals.