Turkish court drops charges against journalist in Paradise Papers case

A Turkish court dismissed defamation and slander charges against journalist Pelin Ünker who revealed off-shore accounts belonging to top Turkish officials and business people through the Paradise Papers reports of 2017, independent news outlet Medyascope reported.

Ünker reported in the Cumhuriyet newspaper that the then prime minister, Binali Yıldırım, and his two sons were the main beneficiaries of five shipping companies registered in Malta for tax optimisation purposes. Ünker's reports also revealed offshore business connections of other top officials and business people, including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's son-in-law, Berat Albayrak, now the treasury and finance minister.

The Paradise Papers was a special investigation by 96 media partners worldwide into a leak of 13.4 million files from two offshore service providers and 19 tax havens' company registries.

A judge on Thursday said a complaint filed by Albayrak, his brother and another businessman was dismissed due to the statute of limitations. Ünker's lawyer, Abbas Yalçın, said the indictment had taken longer than four months to prepare, exceeding the maximum period allowed by law.

In another case brought by Yıldırım and his sons though, Ünker was sentenced in January to 13 months in prison in addition to an 8,860 lira ($1,615) fine for reports on their business activities. Yıldırım was prime minister from 2016 to 2018 when the post was abolished and is now the ruling party's mayoral candidate for Istanbul in Sunday’s March 31 local elections. The family did not deny the report, but brought a suit against the newspaper, accusing it of an attempt to “create a false and partial perception by public opinion.”