Turkish fugitives buy arms company

Apology to Bayoglu

City Press apologise to Mr Vuslat Bayoglu after omitting to ask him to comment on an allegation that he was a "fugitive".

Bayoglu laid a complaint with the Press Ombudsman after the report "Turkish fugitives buy arms company" was published on 5 February 2017. He objected among other things to the use of the words "fugitives", "mafia" and "terror group" in reference to a group of Turkish citizens who bought a South African arms manufacturer. 

The Press Ombudsman dismissed all Mr Bayoglu complaints, except that he was not asked about the implied allegation contained in the story that he is a fugitive. Bayoglu denies that he is a fugitive.

Visit www.presscouncil.org.za for the full finding.

Turkish citizens sought by their government for alleged terrorism back home, have managed to buy an arms manufacturer without the South African government knowing about it.

Jeff Radebe, minister in the presidency and chairperson of the National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC), told City Press’ sister newspaper, Rapport, this week that the government was not aware of the involvement of Turks in the arms manufacturer Milkor.

Milkor Armoured Vehicles, based in northern Pretoria, was not registered with the NCACC at all, Radebe said.

But despite the fact that arms firms have to be registered with the NCACC to obtain marketing permits, Milkor is already advertising armoured vehicles on its website.

National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Luvuyo Mfaku said its priority litigation unit that investigates crimes against the state is aware of the allegations.

“Hawks investigators who specialise in this sort of case will help with any investigation. But it’s still at an initial stage,” said Mfaku.

A storm broke out in Turkey this week when the government-friendly Daily Sabah newspaper reported that fugitives had managed to smuggle $500 million (R6.6 billion) into South Africa.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has embarked on a massive “clean-up” operation during which thousands of people have been charged with various crimes after a failed military coup last year.

An estimated 16 000 people are now in detention for allegedly being sympathisers of US-based cleric Fethullah Gülen, whom Erdogan accuses of being behind the failed coup.

Kaan Esener, Turkey’s former ambassador to South Africa and the Turkish deputy minister of foreign affairs, told the Daily Sabah that a number of Turks based in South Africa, including Vuslat Bayoglu, were fugitives in that country and were wanted for their involvement in the alleged terror group. Bayoglu has since denied that he is a fugitive. 

Bayoglu is the director of various coal mining companies. He has a South African ID number and has residency in the country.

His brother, Serhat Bayoglu, together with Raci Yetis, are directors of an investment company that bought Milkor last year, together with a local company.

Serhat Bayoglu and Yetis are Turkish citizens.

Milkor also last year acquired the arms manufacturer N4/Panzer. The name was changed to Milkor Armoured Vehicles.

According to a Turkish diplomat, the group’s involvement in arms manufacturing is cause for serious concern. It is understood that Milkor was bought for R25 million.

Vuslat Bayoglu’s legal adviser, Emma Sadleir, said her client was “surprised” by the “false allegations” made in Turkey.

“Our client has never heard of the terrorist organisation [Fetullah] that is named in the report.

“Our client rejects terrorism, terrorist organisations and acts of terror. He has never been involved in any form of terrorism and does not support it.

“Our client has also never been questioned by South African authorities.”

Vuslat Bayoglu said Milkor was his brother’s undertaking and he was not involved in it.

But according to Milkor employees, he was the one who addressed personnel as the new owner when the company was taken over.

Vuslat Bayoglu couldn’t explain the allegations made by the former ambassador because “the ambassador knows me”.

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