European corruption watchdog connects Turkey’s Çavuşoğlu to Manafort, Ukraine lobbying

Turkey’s current foreign minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu had received payment from Ukrainian politician Serhiy Lovochkin through U.S. lobbyist Paul Manafort, European watchdog Organized Crime & Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) wrote on Monday.

Çavuşoğlu, who was first elected to the Turkish parliament in 2002, was a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) at the time.

Manafort recruited Çavuşoğlu as part of an effort to ensure that the association agreement between the EU and Ukraine go forward despite the jailing of Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, OCCRP said.

Paul Manafort is currently in prison on fraud charges stemming from the Department of Justice investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 U.S. elections.

Serhiy Lovochkin, leader of Ukraine’s largest opposition party, was funding Manafort’s efforts, OCCRP added. Lovochkin’s press office told the watchdog that the politician never supervised Manafort’s work.

“Thousands of emails obtained by the OCCRP” that show a decade of correspondence starting in 2008 show that Çavuşoğlu was on Lovochkin’s payroll, OCCRP said.

The watchdog mentioned a payment of 230,000 euros ($ 255,000) to Çavuşoğlu, based on the emails.

Çavuşoğlu was secretly lobbying during his duties for PACE as an observer to the 2012 parliamentary elections in Ukraine, according to the OCCRP.

The Turkish politician publicly advocated for Ukraine’s association agreement and spoke positively on the elections to the media, while the European Parliament cited PACE observers to say the electoral and post-electoral process failed to meet international standards, OCCRP said.

Çavuşoğlu condemned criticism by Andreas Gross, head of the PACE observation mission, on the elections and Tymoshenko’s imprisonment and said Gross was “neither fair nor objective,” OCCRP noted.

The conflict of interest for Çavuşoğlu was obvious and one cannot sign up for an observation mission in a country when one is paid by said country’s government, OCCRP quoted Andreas Gross as saying.

OCCRP called Çavuşoğlu’s activities “as unethical as they were lucrative,” while noting that the lobbying did not appear to have broken any laws.