Daily: Businessman implicated in massive graft probe won public tenders worth $ 50 billion

Mehmet Cengiz, the owner of Cengiz Holding who coordinated a pool of millions of dollars collected from businessmen for the government to buy Turkuaz Media Group  — which owns the Sabah daily and the ATV network — has won public tenders amounting to almost TL 100 billion, the Taraf daily reported on Monday.

According to the daily, Cengiz won 28 public tenders in the past 10 years amounting to 23.7 billion euros, $4.9 billion and TL 6 billion. Considering the current exchange rates, the amount that Cengiz Holding received, directly or in consortium, from public tenders was TL 88.6 billion. When build-operate-transfer (BOT) deals are included, Cengiz Holding won business totaling TL 100 billion.

The leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) said on Feb. 4 that a total of $630 million was collected from eight businesspeople, upon the instructions of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, to buy the Sabah media group, a pro-government media outlet that owns dailies and television stations.

The details of a summary of judicial investigation proceedings into the Turkuaz Media Group were shared via Twitter by user Haramzadeler100 (sons of thieves) on Feb. 5. The voice recording the Twitter user released revealed that Mehmet Cengiz, Celal Koloğlu, Nihat Özdemir, İbrahim Çeçen and an unknown businessperson allegedly contributed a total of $100 million each to the pool of money to buy the media group. Other businesspeople contributed smaller amounts, including Adnan Çebi ($30 million) and Hayrettin Özaltın ($20 million). Çeçen was reportedly willing to give an additional $50 million if he was allowed a share in the third Bosporus Bridge tender. According to the voice recordings, it is unknown if Muzaffer Nasıroğlu and Abdullah Tivnikli made any contributions.

The Twitter user claims that the Çalık Group, the owner of the Turkuaz Media Group, wants to get out of the media business and provided certain businesspeople with armored vehicles for the transportation of the money the government allegedly solicited from businesspeople after pressuring them and promising shares in big government tenders.

Police surveillance determined that Cengiz asked Ahmet Çalık, then-owner of the media group, and Serhat Albayrak, CEO of the media group and a relative of Prime Minister Erdoğan, for a vehicle to carry a large portion of the money Cengiz planned to withdraw from his account at Ziraat Bankası so that he could transfer it to Aktifbank, a bank owned by Çalık.

Some of the tenders that Cengiz Holding won in the past 10 years include the third airport in İstanbul, amounting to 22.1 billion euros, Boğaziçi Electric Distribution, worth $1.9 billion, and Ankara-Sivas railway project, worth TL 839 million.

Meanwhile, Taraf reported that the judicial investigation into the Turkuaz Media Group also reveals that during the sale of the former Cine 5 television building the promise to return the building to Cine 5 with the condition that it pay $4 billion debt in addition to the highest price in the tender was ignored by Halkbank. The building was sold to Çalık Holding in 2005.