Turkey is haven for criminals and Islamic extremists, analysts say
A civil lawsuit by three U.S. law firms this week accusing a Turkish bank of financing the Palestinian group Hamas, listed as a terrorist organisation in the United States, comes two weeks after the U.S. Treasury sanctioned 10 Turkey-linked entities on similar charges.
A New York Post article said the cases highlighted Turkey’s growing support for what it called terrorists and regional criminals.
“The evidence keeps mounting: Turkey has become a haven for regional baddies,” Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice president for research at U.S. think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), and Aykan Erdemir, a Turkish former parliamentarian and senior FDD fellow, wrote in an opinion piece for the Post.
“Under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey has become a permissive jurisdiction for rogue regimes and their illicit bankers,” they said, pointing to Turkish banks’ 2012-to-2015 oil-for-gold operations with Iran. “It was the biggest sanctions-evasions scheme in recent history.”
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has been using Turkish companies to launder Venezuelan gold - a network sanctioned by Washington in July. Schanzer and Erdemir said a U.S. Treasury-sanctioned financier for the Syrian government owns companies in Turkey that enable Damascus to circumvent U.S. sanctions.
In April, the United States sanctioned six individuals and a money exchange in Turkey for bankrolling Islamic State (ISIS).
“Turkish law enforcement is known to turn a blind eye to jihadists, while the country’s courts treat them leniently, often releasing them pending trial or granting them parole,” said Schanzer and Erdemir.
Exiled from Egypt in 2013, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood established television stations in Turkey that broadcast Islamist propaganda and death threats against Egyptian officials, the authors said.
Turkey prosecutes its own dissidents while allowing U.S.-designated terrorists such as Hamas military commander Saleh Arouri to operate freely on Turkish soil, they added.
Hamas is listed as a terrorist organisation by the United States and the European Union, but not by Turkey. The U.S. Treasury designated Arouri a terrorist individually, in September 2015, issuing a bounty for information leading to his arrest.
Schanzer and Erdemir pointed out that the plaintiffs in this week’s lawsuit against Kuveyt Türk, the children of an American and his Israeli wife killed by Hamas, have tied the bank to the United States by citing New York state accounts that facilitate transfers to Hamas.
“It’s already clear that Erdoğan’s Turkey has become a permissive jurisdiction for illicit and terror finance,” the authors said. “But this new case on behalf of an American victim of terrorism and members of his family could finally begin to hold the regime in Turkey responsible.”