Friday, July 12, 2024
 
 

Are Turkish investors falling for Hamas’ games?

Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R), hosts Ismail Haniyeh (L), the leader of the Gaza-based Hamas terrorist organization, at the Turkish Parliament in Ankara.

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Recent reports have revealed the extent of investments and assets controlled by Hamas, the Palestinian terror group, within Turkey.

Hamas has long maintained a strong connection to authorities in Ankara, with numerous Hamas officials operating within its borders and the group even openly operating an office in Istanbul. Several Hamas fugitives have been able to take refuge in Turkey over the last ten years.

Turkey’s support of Hamas goes way beyond the diplomatic and ‘humanitarian’ support government officials admit to. Recently, Turkey has become a major center for Hamas’ illicit terror financing operations. This reality has the potential to inflict devastating effects on the Turkish market and even more serious consequences for individual investors.

Hamas’ business activities have slowly become more and more known to the international community over the past twenty years. Over the past decade, the terror group has succeeded in deploying commercial projects throughout Europe and the Middle East.

Its operations in Turkey, however, seem to be head and shoulders above the rest of the organization’s activities. It seems that Hamas has chosen to manage its secret investment portfolio in Turkey because of the country’s below-par regulatory regime and overall weak financial system. This reality enables Hamas to easily hide its money laundering activities and tax violations from government agencies.

The first aspect worth noting is the sheer volume of capital owned by Hamas in Turkish companies. According to the due diligence firm, Double Cheque, an organization now well known for its exposés on militant groups in the Middle East and the broader MENA region, the main corporate body through which Hamas maintains a presence in Turkey is the Istanbul-based investment firm, Trend GYO.

Formally known by the name Anda Gayrimenkul, Trend GYO changed its name in 2018 to conceal its connections to its Saudi parent company, Anda. The company engages primarily in the real estate business in Turkey and internationally.

Trend GYO develops and constructs various real estate projects, such as houses, hotels, and residence, and university buildings. It also provides real estate consultancy services to choice clients in Turkey and abroad. Today, Trend GYO is a fully traded public company on the Turkish stock exchange, however, only some thirty percent of the company’s total stock is floating. The rest of the company’s shares remain permanently in the hands of shareholders controlled by Hamas.

The extent of Hamas’ control over Trend GYO is made clear from its corporate structure and executive positions. Trend has a total of five subsidiaries in Turkey, all in the field of contracting and construction. Every one of these sub-entities is owned and operated by a known Hamas operative.

What’s more, the central role Trend GYO plays in Hamas’ broader global investment projects in the region. Through elaborate efforts, dozens of Hamas-controlled companies provide the corporate cover for money laundering and tax evasion. This thriving investment portfolio is currently estimated to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Recently obtained documentation by researchers at Double Cheque have confirmed the vast holdings of Hamas members in eighteen separate companies within this portfolio.

These same Hamas operatives hold key positions in these firms including CEO positions and board memberships. As a highly proficient investment and consultancy enterprise, it is Trend GYO that has been tasked with managing a wide array of corporate entities, investments, and other capital holdings.

In addition to the terror financing enabled by Trend and its subsidiaries, the scheme also presents a serious threat to Turkey’s already fragile financial system. As noted, Trend GYO has been traded on the Istanbul stock exchange since 2018.

Raising terror funds via a public company that is traded on the Istanbul stock exchange is simply unprecedented in Turkey as far as the financial danger involved. This risk is barred not only by the company’s private shareholders, but to all its investors, any bank or financial institution that works with the company, as well as legal or accounting professionals that provide services to it. Even institutions with indirect ties to Trend’s activities, such as correspondent banks linked to the banks that actually manage the investment portfolio accounts, can be subject to fines and audits.

Furthermore, due to the direct ties the company’s assets have to Hamas, unwitting customers who buy real estate from Trend GYO become unknowing supporters of a designated terror organization. Beyond the moral implications, this means that any purchases (or investments of any kind for that matter) cannot be backed or guaranteed in the event of a collapse.

The potential for far-reaching financial consequences due to Hamas’s involvement in the financial networks is not merely theoretical. The US Treasury Department, for instance, has sanctioned companies and other entities linked to Hamas operatives creating major repercussions for multiple stakeholders.

Both the Turkish authorities as well as investors must wake up to the imminent threat Hamas’ activities have posed. It is only a matter of time until this illicit network delivers serious damage to not only Turkey’s own economy, but the financial solvency of enterprises throughout the region.

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