Lighthouse Case Summary 2007 - 2008
SUMMARY OF CASE -
Case against the conservative Turkish charity named "Deniz Feneri" (Lighthouse)
CLICK for copy of 2007
indictment translated into
Turkish from original German court documents
TURKEY'S CHIEF PROSECUTOR TO PROBE INTO GERMAN CHARITY FRAUD *
November 5, 2008
Abdurrahman Yalcinkaya, Chief Prosecutor of the Supreme Court in Ankara, has moved to make an investigation about fraud in a Germany-based charity to find out whether the organization had sent money to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Prosecutor Abdurrahman Cetinkaya, who also had filed a closure case against the AK Party, would probe the fraud case which had seen a German court sentencing three Turks for siphoning donations in the charity Deniz Feneri e.V. The Frankfurt court had said the charity had received a total of 41 million euros of donations over last five years in Germany, and 17 million euros of that had been sent to Turkey. PressScan
Possible connections to Turkey's Prime Ministry alleged by German investigators
AKP Party rocked by a series of corruption scandals & recent allegations
After the April 2007 indictement in Frankfurt, a German court convicted three Turkish men on Sept. 17, 2008 accused of funnelling $26 million in charitable contributions raised by Deniz Feneri to conservative companies in Turkey. The case sparked a bitter argument between Prime Minister Erdoğan and some Turkish newspapers after news reports were published implicating Erdoğan and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government in the case.
Mr. Akman, president of Turkey's Supreme Board of Radio and Television (RTUK), is implicated in the embezzlement scheme of the Deniz Feneri e.V. charity in Germany, which misappropriated millions of euros of donated funds. German jurists portray Akman as a courier for the foundation, a claim that received widespread media coverage in Turkey.
Critics accuse the government and prime minister of protecting the accomplices in the Lighthouse e.V. affair and using the embezzled money to support the AKP and its political agenda. Leading Lighthouse representatives are AKP members, and the opposition in Ankara maintains that the money was used to finance media close to the AKP.
The court in Germany, which handed down jail sentences to three officials of “Deniz Feneri” (or "Lighthouse," a Turkish charity), accused the organization of raising money from Turks in Germany and then transferring large sums to companies in Turkey. Leading Lighthouse representatives are AKP members, and the opposition in Ankara states that the money was used to finance media close to the AKP, and that parts of it may have ended up with the party itself.
The AK Party has been rocked by a series of
corruption scandals. For a party that was founded by Prime Minister Recep
Tayyip Erdogan in 2001
as a new political force that would end the corruption by party
politicians, these scandals are especially painful. The word
“ak” means “white” or “clean” in Turkish. Saban
Disli, a deputy party chief of the AKP, was
forced to resign after being accused of taking a $1 million bribe in a real estate deal. In the western city of
politicians publicly accused a local party leader of corruption.
The AKP denies the accusations, but even some of its top officials are uneasy. AKP followers have begun to voice their frustration. Many religiously conservative supporters of the AKP believed the scandal was fabricated by opponents of the government, or maybe even by Germany in order to shake-up the Erdogan government.
Case against "Deniz Feneri" (Lighthouse) links AKP Party to corruption
AKP officials in Turkey are suspected of involvment in the biggest charity corruption case in Germany's history
The Lighthouse e.V. case is one of the biggest embezzlement cases in Germany, in which at least 17 million euros of charity donations collected from Turks in Germany was transferred to Turkey for commercial activities (about 41 million euros was spent on other purposes). German Prosecutor Kerstin Lötz and Frankfurt High State Court President Johann Müller repeatedly underlined that some AKP officials in Turkey were complicit in the affair. Supreme Board of Radio and Television, or RTÜK, President Zahid Akman, has been suspected of acting as a courier between Lighthouse e.V. and Kanal 7 which operates in Turkey. Other connections between fraud committed by what the media has called "Islamic companies" and the Lighthouse e.V. affair, were also addressed by the case.
German Lighthouse was founded as a charity organization in 1999. The money, collected, mostly from Turks in Germany, was channeled to companies in Turkey between 2002 and 2007. At the trial in Germany, the German judge sentenced Turkish directors of the charity Lighthouse to jail for siphoning off 16 million euros ($22.8 million) of donations. The former director of Lighthouse, Mehmet Gurhan, was convicted and sentenced to five years and 10 months in prison. The director of the foundation, Mehmet Tashan, was sentenced to two years and nine months in prison.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused opponents and the media of defaming his AKP Party with reports of alleged corruption. The reporting involves allegations against the conservative Turkish charity named "Deniz Feneri" (Lighthouse), which collected money from Turkish workers for humanitarian causes in Germany. Donations were allegedly used to fund companies with ties to Prime Minister Erdogan. Erdogan disputes these reports and has accused the Dogan Media Group of reporting these allegations unfairly due to its bias against his government.
Germany convicts charity fraud suspects, passes ball to Turkey
Sept. 17, 2008 HürriyetA German court handed down its ruling in the so-called Deniz Feneri charity fraud case. The German judge passed the ball to the Turkish authorities, saying the masterminds of the fraud are in Turkey
Supreme Court of Frankfurt handed down a prison sentence of five
years and 10 months for Mehmet Gurhan, the 45-year-old former director
of the charity, and two years and nine months for
Mehmet Taskan, 44.
Mehmet Taskan, 44.
court ruled for the release of another suspect, Firdevsi Ermis, 40,
with a suspended sentence of one year and ten months.
three, of Turkish-origin, were found guilty of fraud for directing 14.5
million euros ($20.6 million) of funds raised by the Islamist-leaning
Deniz Feneri (Lighthouse) charity among
so-called Deniz Feneri charity fraud case was the biggest charity
corruption case in
German judge passed the ball to the Turkish authorities.
said Gurhan was mainly directed from
Zekeriya Karaman, one of Deniz FeneriTurkey's founders and executive board chairman of Islamist Kanal 7 TV channel, has a leading role in the fraud, he added.
is ready to cooperate with the German authorities
regarding the issue in the case that such a demand comes from
A legal case was opened in Germany against the religious charity, Deniz Feneri, over claims of illegal financial transactions involving donated funds and fraud.The fraud scandal widened to media groups close to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and some Turkish bureaucrats. Even a suspect in the case claimed that funds from the charity were paid to Erdogan, a claim later ruled out by the court.
Turkey's Chief Prosecutor to Probe Party Corruption Claims
By Mark Bentley and Ali Berat Meric
Nov. 5, 2008 Bloomberg -- Turkey's chief prosecutor will investigate whether the governing Justice and Development Party illegally received cash from a charity in Germany.
Abdurrahman Yalcinkaya, Chief Prosecutor of the Supreme Court in Ankara, has requested documents from a lower court that made an initial appraisal of possible evidence, a court spokesman said on the usual condition of anonymity. Yalcinkaya will then decide whether to open a case to outlaw the party, he said.
The probe raises concern that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's party, which in July escaped closure on Yalcinkaya's charges that it had acted to undermine secularism, may face new legal challenges.
The Constitution says a political party must be banned if it's proven to have received payments from foreign governments, charities or associations.
Turkey's chief prosecutor probes ruling AKP's link with charity fraud
Nov. 5, 2008 Hurriyet
Turkey's chief prosecutor has opened an investigation into links between the country's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Deniz Feneri charity fraud case, Turkish TV channels reported on November 5, 2008.
The chief prosecutor could file a closure case against the ruling party in case he deems necessary based on his findings, the channels added.
A court in Frankfurt had jailed three managers from the Deniz Feneri charity's German branch, Deniz Feneri e.V., for directing 14.5 million euro ($20.6 million) of donated funds collected from the Turkish community in Germany into private companies.
Several people based in Turkey, including the head of Turkey's media watchdog, RTUK, Zahid Akman, were implicated as the masterminds amid claims that the charity, whose founders are close to the ruling government, might have funneled funds into the AKP.
Germany files case for Turkey’s media watchdog head
A German court filed a lawsuit against the head of Turkey's radio and television watchdog on cooperative enterprise fraud charges, a deputy from Turkey's main opposition the Republican People's Party (CHP) said on Thursday.
Nov. 6, 2008 Hurriyet
The prosecutor's office in Frankfurt filed case Wednesday against Zahid Akman, president of the Supreme Board of Radio and Television (RTUK), on the charge of aggravated fraud after fund donors complained that Akman and other charity executives had misused the money it collected from the Turkish community in Germany, CHP deputy Ali Kilic was quoted by Anatolian Agency as telling a press conference.
Kilic reiterated his party's call for Akman to resign from his post.
name was also announced in connection with the case against Deniz Feneri e.V.
In the Deniz Feneri e.V. case, viewed as the biggest charity scandal in German history, a court in Frankfurt jailed three managers from the charity's German branch for directing 14.5 million euro ($20.6 million) of donated funds collected from the Turkish community in Germany into private companies.
people based in
been monitoring the Deniz Feneri case in
Germany cancels Kanal 7's broadcasting rights
The license of a Turkish television station, Kanal 7 INT, broadcasting in Germany, has been canceled by the country's media regulation commission.
A statement released by the Commission for Licensing and Supervision (ZAK) on Thursday said the broadcasting institution Euro 7 Television and Marketing GmbH, which runs Kanal 7, had violated broadcasting regulations.
It said the station was no longer capable of preparing its programs in line with the relevant laws and that it could not afford them financially, either.
The statement also indicated that the company no longer took responsibility for the programs broadcast on the station and recalled that some of its former managers had received jail sentences.
The Kanal 7 television station was recently accused of being one of the
companies that received illegal transfers of money collected as donations by
the Deniz Feneri aid organization, and some of its managers were convicted of
involvement in the ensuing fraud case.
Prosecutor launches probe into Akman accounts
The Finance Ministry’s Financial Crimes Investigation Board (MASAK) has started an investigation into bank accounts and financial assets of six individuals allegedly involved in a charity fraud case, including those of Zahid Akman, the head of the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK).
In September, allegations were made that Akman was implicated in the German-based Turkish charity organization Deniz Feneri (Lighthouse) fraud case, in which a German court handed down prison terms to three individuals who all pled guilty to charges of fraud and apologized to benefactors of the charity.
MASAK, acting on orders from the Ankara Chief Prosecutor’s Office, will be inspecting the accounts and assets of Akman; Zekeriya Karaman, the CEO of the Kanal 7 television station; İsmail Karahan and Mustafa Çelik, executive board members of Kanal 7; Harun Kapuyoldaş, a partner of Kanal 7; and Mehmet Gürhan, one of the senior managers of Deniz Feneri Germany.
The information will be presented to the Ankara Chief Prosecutor’s Office, which is investigating the Turkish connections to the Deniz Feneri case.
A court in Frankfurt am Main handed down a prison sentence of five years and 10 months for Mehmet Gürhan, and two years and nine months for Mehmet Taşkan in September. Another suspect, Firdevsi Ermiş, was released with a suspended sentence of one year and 10 months.
Prosecutor Kerstin Lötz said during one of the hearings in the trial that at least 16 million euros of donated funds had been misused by the charity. The prosecution was seeking a six-year sentence for Gürhan, three years for Taşkan and two years for Ermiş. Lötz said those who had been in charge of the fraudulent operations were, in fact, in Turkey.
The prosecution also said they had reason to believe that RTÜK head Akman was responsible for some of the illegal activity, a charge they reiterated on Tuesday. Lötz stated that Kanal 7’s Karaman was the mastermind behind the crimes. Hürriyet / Zaman (November 27, 2008)
Gül orders audits of local charities
The scandalous corruption case that erupted in Germany involving a charity foundation with alleged links to the AKP and Turkey has prompted the Turkish president to take action.
ANKARA - Mounting accusations of involvement in the Lighthouse charity scandal in Germany and its Turkish repercussions result in President Gül calling on the State Auditing Commission to revise legal regulations for charity organizations. The commission plans to address the deficiencies and negative elements of the system at a meeting scheduled later this month.
President Abdullah Gül has asked for the State Auditing Commission, or DDK,
to revise legal regulations for charity organizations, reported daily Hurriyet
yesterday. The DDK serves under the authority of the president.
Behind the move lies the repercussions of the corruption scandal surrounding the Islamic charity organization, Lighthouse e.V., which disturbed the public conscience and received widespread media coverage in Turkey over the past few months. The German court revealed the foundation collected donations from Turks living in Germany and, using couriers between 2002 and 2007, illegally transferred 17 million euros of an overall 41 million euros in donations to Turkey, including to a company owned by pro-government Kanal 7 television channel.
The Deniz Feneri (Lighthouse) Foundation, a charity organization based in Turkey with no official links to Lighthouse e.V. in Germany, also received 8 million euros of the transferred money. German jurists portrayed Zahid Akman, the president of the Supreme Board of Radio and Television, or RTÜK, as a courier for the German foundation. Akman was the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, nominee for the RTÜK presidency. There were also allegations of a link between the foundation and the AKP. Critics and political parties have accused the AKP of protecting accomplices in the Lighthouse e.V. case.
The latest in a series of such accusations came in September from a deputy in the main opposition party, Akif Hamzaçelebi, who said the government had tried to hinder further examination of the links between Kanal 7 and Lighthouse e.V. Hamzaçelebi, of the Republican People’s Party, or CHP, urged the DDK to launch a probe into Kanal 7’s accounts.
Following the call, Gül discussed the issue with his officials and said it would be more appropriate to wait until the stormy discussions about the Lighthouse case has passed so more timely action could be taken. He then instructed the DDK to schedule a revision of the regulations regarding charity organizations into its 2009 calendar.
The DDK will thus include this revision in its 2009 agenda in a meeting to be held in the second week of December, where the deficiencies and negative elements of the system that regulates charity foundations will be discussed. The DDK will then prepare a report for related institutions.
Charity organizations are currently being inspected at least every two years. The Interior Ministry is authorized to dismiss personnel or members who work for the organizations as a temporary precaution, if faults alleged against them are proven valid upon investigation. Hurriyet (December 3, 2008)
German court documents due to arrive in 2009
As a result of the Ankara Prosecutor’s 2008 request for German court documents, press reports in December 2008 confirmed that Turkey will receive the Frankfurt trial documents in 2009. According to court documents regarding the fraud scandal case, charity donations collected in Germany were transferred to Turkey for commercial activities. Critics have accused the AKP of protecting accomplices and funding pro-government media.
Public Prosecutor Nadi Türkaslan ordered the Financial Crimes
Investigation Board, or MASAK, under the authority of the finance ministry, to
launch an investigation into the property holdings of six people mentioned in
Germany’s Lighthouse e.V. file and of companies in which they have shares.
Aside from Akman and Karaman, the property holdings of Channel 7 executive
board members İsmail Karahan and Mustafa Çelik, company partner Harun
Kapuyoldaş and director of Lighthouse e.V. in Germany, Mehmet Gürhan,
will also be investigated. MASAK will investigate whether there appeared to be
an illegal influx of money or money laundering and will submit its findings to
the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office.
Following the Lighthouse e.V. fraud scandal, in which charity donations collected in Germany were transferred to Turkey for commercial activities, a German court pointed to Turkey as the place where the real criminals were. Some media corporations and critics have accused the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government of protecting the accomplices in the Lighthouse e.V. case and funding pro-government media. (The Ankara Public Prosecutor’s office launched the Lighthouse investigation in Turkey in September 2008). AA / NTV - December 2008
* In July 2008, the Constitutional Court found the AKP guilty of anti-secular activities, but issued fines against the party instead of ordering it to close.
If Supreme Court of Appeals Chief Prosecutor Abdurrahman Yalcinkaya finds that the AKP itself received any of the siphoned out funds, the prosecutor could launch a case to have the party closed down by the Constitutional Court.