Selman Turk: the exiled businessman who gave money to Prince Andrew | UK News
Ohen Selman Turk married Nurhüda Cevahir in a lavish ceremony at a mansion overlooking the Bosphorus, a former Turkish deputy prime minister described the event as “the wedding of Istanbul’s two most distinguished families”.
Turk, who now faces legal action in London accusing him of embezzling nearly £40million, was then working for Goldman Sachs, and the wedding at the Sait Halim Pasha Mansion reflected the families’ elite status . The mansion has gilded columns, sparkling chandeliers and a direct view of the water, an ideal place for a bride who would be the daughter of the founders of a major Turkish construction company.
The couple’s witnesses included then-Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç, a former chairman of Goldman Sachs Turkey, Çağlayan Çetin, and business tycoon Akın İpek, according to at least one Turkish tabloid. The local press chafed at Arınç’s statements on the wedding day, when he complained that people were banging pots and pans outside the venue as part of anti-government protests. “Who has the right to make them unhappy on their wedding night, my friends?” asked Arınç, irritated that protesters disrupted the glamorous event late into the night.
Yet nearly a decade later, Turk’s status has dropped dramatically from his peak as a newly minted member of Turkey’s elite. He lives in exile in London, part of an exodus of accused members and associates of the Gülen movement, which Turkish authorities accuse of orchestrating a coup attempt in 2016.
The lawsuit filed by Nebahat Evyap İşbilen, the wife of a former senior official of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), claims that Turk “dishonestly embezzled some $50 million in breach of his fiduciary duty and by means of undue influence”, while channeling payments of £750,000 to Prince Andrew in order to procure a passport for İşbilen. The prince claims he repaid the money 16 months after receiving it and declined to comment further.
“Mrs. İşbilen is the victim of serious fraud and financial mischief by Selman Turk, a man she trusted to help her through extremely difficult circumstances,” said İşbilen’s lawyer, Jonathan Tickner. İşbilen is a former member of the board of Evyap Group, a major Turkish soap and personal care company, who says he commissioned Turk to help her move her assets out of Turkey when she went into exile after the arrest of her husband in 2016.
Işbilen and Turk were longtime associates: court documents indicate that the two families had known each other for more than 30 years. “Mr. İşbilen, the applicant’s husband, attended Mr. Türk’s wedding in 2013,” they add.
Turk’s ties to the Gülen movement have led some Turkish media to refer to him as “FËTO’s banker”, using a term coined by Turkish authorities to associate the movement with terrorism. For other observers, Turk’s fall from grace represents the flight of Gülenist money from Turkey and also the change in status of a network of elites who a decade ago were closely linked to the ruling AKP. .
The Gülenists are supporters of conservative Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, who has lived in exile in Pennsylvania since 1999 and whose movement allied with Erdoğan’s AKP during his first days in government.
Turk and Cevahir’s wedding took place during the movement’s final glory days in Turkey, shortly before the government banned it and decreed a sweeping crackdown on suspected Gülenists in all areas of public life after the 2016 coup attempt, in which at least 77,000 people were arrested.
In his defense documents, Turk says that he “was not a member of the Gülen movement and did not want to be associated with it despite his family’s close ties to Mr. Gülen”, but that those same family ties motivated Işbilen to choose him to help with his finances. “Mr. Turk’s grandfather was Mr. Gülen’s friend and Mr. Turk’s uncle is Mr. Gülen’s first student but was not involved in the management of the FËTO movement or in the decisions the movement’s strategies,” the documents say. Turk added that he remembers when Işbilen approached him in early 2017 because he was visiting the United States for Donald Trump’s inauguration.
Selim Sazak, from Ankara-based consultancy TUM Strategy, said: “We know there was a Gülenist network of capital whose flight from Turkey to London was facilitated by a wider professional network. Selman Turk seems to be a figure in this conversation.
“He wasn’t a trifle, clearly he had a professional pedigree, but he wasn’t someone you would immediately think of as an enabler for this theft. He’s a second-tier person in the concentric circles of politicians and professionals who made this exodus possible, as some of these people eventually settled in London.There were very few people who would be honest if there had been a wider consideration of society with the legacy of the Gülen movement.
After leaving Goldman Sachs in early 2016, Turk’s business in Britain changed. He founded a vast network of businesses and limited liability companies around the world, including SG Financial Group, cited in court filings as one of the business networks that prosecutors say he used to hide funds in Isbilen. SG Financial Group was just one of many companies registered in Florida, Georgia and tax havens such as Dubai, the British Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands, comprising financial management companies, IT companies and a commercial.
Turk left SG Financial Group in 2020 and he claims to have used the companies to transfer money from Işbilen on a consensual basis, within accepted corporate practices, and in ways he would have been unable to. to do on a personal basis.
Turk also founded Naturlich Dairy, an American company that claimed to produce artisan yogurts and cheeses by “preserving the Amish dairy tradition.” An investigation by Turkey’s Anadolu news agency claimed the business was linked to Gülen’s personal chef and operated from a farm adjacent to his Pennsylvania compound.
In 2019, Turk founded Heyman AI, the company that reportedly won a People’s Choice Award from Prince Andrew at the [email protected] event. Heyman AI appears unpopular with some former employees: two have successfully sued the company for unpaid wages of around £5,000, while notices on the Glassdoor jobs website complain that contractors and employees don’t have not been paid. The company was liquidated last September.
Turk did not respond to a request for comment. He denies the accusations made against him by Işbilen in his defense in court documents, arguing that she asked him to help her transfer his assets out of Turkey “and put them beyond the reach of the Turkish authorities”, and that he did exactly what she asked. “He did not commit any deception,” he adds.