Turkey moves to extradite businessman Korkmaz after arrest in Austria

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The Turkish Embassy in Austria on Sunday announced that a process had begun to extradite Turkish businessman Sezgin Baran Korkmaz, hours after his detention by Ausrian authorities.

'As of June 19th, we have begun the process for his (Korkmaz’s) extradition upon the orders we have received from the (foreign) ministry,’’ Cumhuriyet newspaper cited Turkish Ambassador to Vienna Ozan Ceyhun as saying.

Korkmaz, a Turkish businessman involved in a money laundering scheme in the United States and accused of involvement in large-scale corruption in Turkey, was taken into custody by Austrian authorities upon the United States’ request, BBC Turkish reported on Sunday.

Korkmaz was detained over a new investigation launched in the United States for remaining silent despite having knowledge of laundering of crime-related money, his lawyers told BBC Turkish. 

The businessman's partners in the United States, the Kingston Brothers admitted of fraudulently claiming subsidies of more than $500 million from the U.S. government, some $130 million of which was allegedly sent to Turkey for laundering.

Turkish authorities have sought Korkmaz’s arrest since December over the involvement of his SBK Holding in the decade-long scheme by Jacob and Isaiah Kingston, dubbed Mormon Crime Brothers in Utah. Ahval has covered the case in detail since 2018.

“I am an investor. Foreign investors come from abroad and I put their money to work here,” BBC Turkish cited Korkmaz as saying in a previous statement as the businessman rejected allegations. Korkmaz said he wouldn’t know if the money came from illicit activities.

Korkmaz returned to the Turkish news cycle when infamous mafia boss Sedat Peker, in one of his nine hour-long tell-all videos laying out allegations of corruption and criminal activity among government circles, accused Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu of tipping the businessman off before the December raids seeking his arrest.

Peker also said Paramount Hotel, the luxury vacation spot located in the touristic town Bodrum in southwestern Turkey that Korkmaz owns, has hosted many high-level government officials, including judges, prosecutors and police chiefs. According to the mobster, several pro-government journalists also frequented the premises.

Pro-government journalist Veyis Ateş was accused of having demanded 10 million euros from Korkmaz to help him avoid prosecution, allegedly acting in the name of Soylu. Ateş denies ever having asked for such a bribe, while Korkmaz says he has a voice recording to prove it. Several journalists and Peker himself say they have listened to part of the recording in question.

On Sunday morning, opposition deputy and investigative journalist Ahmet Şık shared a voice recording on YouTube, saying it was the recording in question. In the muffled audio, two men are heard discussing how to mediate the situation, consistent with what journalists Sevilay Yılman, Fatih Altaylı and İsmail Saymaz have written about last week..