A prominent businessman with close ties to Donald Trumphas been arrested in Turkey so the country can use him as leverage in their dealings with the US President-elect, it has been claimed.
Barbaros Muratoglu, a senior executive at Dogan Holding was detained on 1 December on “threadbare allegations” according to an investigation by Kurt Eichenwald, a veteran investigative journalist at Newsweek magazine.
One of the top industrial conglomerates in Turkey, operating in the energy, media, industry, trade, insurance and tourism industries, Dogan Holding built a pair of buildings, Trump Towers in Istanbul.
Mr Trump’s company has been paid up to $10 million by the developers since 2014 to affix his name atop of the buildings, one of which is residential and the other offices.
During a phone call with Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the day after his election win, Mr Trump mentioned Mr Muratoglu by name only for him to be arrested shortly afterwards, according US TV host Rachel Maddow, who was given an exclusive of the magazine’s story.
It goes on to claim that they plan to use his detention as leverage in a deal that would see the US extradite the Imam, Fethullah Gulen, who Mr Erdogan has blamed for masterminding an attempted coup in the country earlier this year – a charge he denies.
The one time ally of Mr Erdogan is currently living in the US which has refused to extradite him to Turkey despite repeated requests.
Mr Muratoglu was arrested in capital city Ankara in connection with an investigation into Mr Gulen’s followers, reported. Dogan Holding said at the time it was “clear there is no connection between our group and this illegal structure”.
Now the Newsweek article has alleged that if Mr Erdogan’s government “puts more pressure on the company that’s paying millions of dollars to Trump and his children, revenue flowing from the tower complex in Istanbul could be cut off.”
It said “that means Erdogan has leverage with Trump, who will soon have the power to get Gulen extradited.”
The Independent could not independently verify these claims but Ms Maddow said Turkey had “figured out how to turn that to their advantage and how to put the United States over a barrel in the process”.
Mr Erdogan’s government has purged and detained thousands of people following the coup, and will soon submit proposals to parliament for constitutional changes to expand his powers.