Mystery investment firm offers to finance $12.9 billion Istanbul canal

Investment company Money Maker Management has offered to provide all financing for Kanal Istanbul, a 75 billion-lira ($12.8 billion) construction project announced by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Turkish media including financial newspaper Dünya said the company would arrange capital for the 45-km (28-mile) waterway, designed to divert shipping from Istanbul’s Bosporus Straits, and all related bridges and tunnels, citing an interview with CEO George Ghorayeb. The firm, which has set up an office in Istanbul, is the seventh-largest fund in the United States, Dünya said.

But the company’s website – moneymakermanagement.com – provides no information about past or current projects. It also lists no office address aside from a branch in Dubai, run by an individual named Ahmad Kurdi. The address of the office – M12/M13 Mezzanine Floor Pyramid Center, Oud Metha, Lebanon, is also the address of Ahmad Kurdi Fine Jewellery, according to the latter’s LinkedIn profile.

Erdoğan announced Kanal Istanbul in 2011, but it is unclear how the project will be financed. The project’s opponents, who include Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu, warn that it will wreak environmental havoc. While an environmental impact report for the canal was approved by the Environment and Urbanisation Ministry last week, it is not known which international lenders, if any, will take part in financing. A currency crisis in 2018 has frozen many investment projects in the country.

Money Maker Management SARL is registered in Kesrouan, Lebanon and Ghorayeb is its CEO, according to global company search engine info-clipper.com. It was established in 1988, has three employees and its issued capital totals 400,000 Lebanese pounds ($264), the 2017 filing showed. The company's GoDaddy web domain also cites it as based in Lebanon.

One of the only web-based references to work planned by Money Maker Management was in relation to Nigeria. The company approached former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo two years ago, asking him to help invest about $50 billion in the Nigerian economy, according to Nigerian website legit.com. Obasanjo ruled Nigeria between 1999 and 2007 and various corruption scandals broke out during his presidency.