U.S. seeks seizure of Turkish businessman Korkmaz’s assets in Turkey

(Updated with Austrian court ruling)

The Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office of the Utah district of the United States requested the seizure of assets from Turkish businessman Sezgin Baran Korkmaz as it sought to recover $130 million allegedly laundered and transferred to Turkey from the United States.

The prosecutor’s office submitted a list of the assets to a Utah district court, the Voice of America reported on Sunday. They included companies, properties and movables such as Korkmaz’s umbrella company in Turkey SBK Holding, a subsidiary in Luxembourg, a private jet, yachts, Turkish medical firm Biofarma and a hotel near the resort town of Bodrum.

Korkmaz is accused by U.S. prosecutors of involvement in schemes to defraud the U.S. taxpayer led by the Kingston brothers and Lev Aslan Dermen. The Kingston Brothers have admitted to fraudulently claiming subsidies of more than $500 million from the U.S. government, of which the $130 million was allegedly sent to Turkey and laundered. Dermen has also been convicted of tax fraud on evidence provided by the Kingston Brothers.

The Turkish businessman was arrested on Saturday in Austria upon the United States’ request, BBC Turkish reported.

Korkmaz is accused of remaining silent while knowingly transferring crime-related money, BBC Turkish cited his lawyers as saying. Hours after his detention by the Austrian authorities, the Turkish embassy in Vienna said it requested that Korkmaz be extradited to Turkey.

'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.

On Thursday, Utah’s Chief Public Prosecutor Andrea T. Martinez submitted a list of the assets belonging to Korkmaz to be confiscated through the electronic transaction system of the Ministry of Justice, the VOA said.

The assets of SBK USA Inc, of which Dermen and Korkmaz were partners, should also be confiscated, according to the seven-page list.

Korkmaz on Monday appeared in an Austrian court, which ruled to keep the Turkish businessman detained for a period of another 14 days, Duvar news site reported.

The Vienna court has ruled for an extradition request for Korkmaz to be issued by the court where the businessman was initially taken into police custody, Duvar cited his lawyerVolkan Murat Dülger as saying.

Korkmaz appeared calm during his court appearance on Monday, Sözcü newspaper reported, as he listened to the reason for his detention, extradition procedure and the charges against him. 

The 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 the Mormon Crime Brothers.

Earlier this month, Sedat Peker, a wanted Turkish mafia leader who is living in exile, accused Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu of tipping Korkmaz off and urging him to leave Turkey prior to the attempts to arrest him.