Turkish court orders seizure of assets for 14 business people, including SBK
An Istanbul court approved an appeal by the Istanbul chief public prosecutor’s office to seize assets for a total of 14 individuals, including businessman Sezgin Baran Korkmaz, on Friday as part of an investigation for money laundering, daily Sözcü reported.
The seizure aims to collect evidence, the court said.
Among the 14 people involved are the brothers Jacob and Isaiah Kingston, dubbed Mormon crime brothers, as well as Lev Dermen – also known as Levon Termendzhyan, an associate of Korkmaz who introduced him to the brothers and currently faces trial in the United States over a $1 billion mail fraud scheme.
Seized assets include several pharmaceutical, technology, investment, energy and communications companies, several of which are involved in a court case in the United States.
In September, U.S. prosecutors asked for the return of several assets owned by the Kingston brothers, including Mega Assets Magagement Co., Blane Technology, Komak Insulation, and Biofarma Medicine.
The Kingstons are said to have transferred around $140 million to Korkmaz’s SBK Holding as part of their decade-long fraud that defrauded the U.S. government of at least $470 million.
Dermen was convicted of several counts of conspiracy and money laundering in March, and was allegedly the person who financed SBK Holding’s activities in Turkey with partnering the Kingston Brothers.
Korkmaz and his holding SBK were a business partner to the Kingston brothers since 2014, and helped Washakie Renewable Energy (WRE) to invest in Turkey. Those assets in Turkey have been or still are managed by Korkmaz.
Korkmaz and Dermen are also connected to the group of people who allowed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to get an early foot in with his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump.
There have been some reports in recent months SBK Holding investing and buying other companies. One of the recent reports in Turkish media reported SBK Holding about to spend $82 millions to buy Silcolux Investment, a part of one of the largest holdings of Turkey.
The Kingstons’ WRE was the headquarters of the fraud, producing paperwork to apply for a $1 per gallon stimulus from the Internal Revenue Services (IRS) claiming that it was turning sludge and wastes into biofuel. They then sent over $140 million to Turkey, losing traces of money in a safe haven. U.S. prosecutors stated during the hearings that U.S. law enforcement forces were unable to receive any cooperation from the Turkish side.
The money WRE sent to Turkey was invested in acquiring new companies and real estates, according to the prosecutors' documents submitted to the court.
Last year, Yalçın Ayaslı, prominent Turkish-American entrepreneur and chairman of the Turkish lobby in Washington, D.C., launched a court case against Korkmaz, claiming that a group of Turkish defendants, led by Korkmaz, used extortion and money laundering to acquire his Turkey-based airline BoraJet.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was photographed meeting Jacob Kingston, one of two brothers accused of fraudulently claiming hundreds of millions of tax credits from the U.S. treasury after falsifying documentation to show that their company had been manufacturing biofuels.
In 2016, days after Jacob Kingston testified in court that he no longer had any interests in Turkey, a Turkish government agency announced that the Kingston brothers’ company Washakie, SBK and a company owned by Dermen called Noil Energy Group had made plans to invest $950 million in Turkey.
Kingston brothers were detained in the United States as they prepared to depart for Turkey at an airport. The jet for their departure was provided by SBK.