The story of Fethullahist sleeper cells in the Finance Ministry
Let me explain the “first conspiracy” in the simplest terms possible. It was the precursor of the greatest conspiracy in Turkey’s recent history.
Doğan Publishing Holding, at the end of 2006, sold 25 percent of Doğan TV’s shares to Germany’s Axel Springer for 375 million euros (nearly $500 million). The deal was signed on Dec. 26, 2006.
It was Christmas in Germany so banks were closed and the buyer could not transfer the money to Turkey.
The transaction was conducted eight days later, on Jan. 2, 2007.
The tax due from this sale was around 30 million Turkish Liras. Tax payments are made in three-month periods, so if the transaction was finalized by the end of December, taxes should have been paid by the end of the first quarter of 2007. But the sale was officially conducted on Jan. 2, 2007, so the tax payment was due in the second quarter and it was paid in May. The eight-day delay postponed the tax payment for three months.
After two years, “a sleeper cell” inside the Finance Ministry awakened. Three tax inspectors from the ministry levied 1.174 billion liras in tax fines on the Doğan Group in February 2009.
The justification claimed that the tax should have been paid based on the Dec. 26, 2006 date, when the agreement was reached, not based on the official sale date of Jan. 2, 2007. The tax was paid and there was no change in the tax amount. In a worst-case scenario, this tax dispute could have been finalized with a three-month interest for late payment, amounting to 1.2 million liras.
The Doğan Group took the issue to court, which decided it was an unjust fine. The Council of State (Danıştay) approved the ruling. So in other words the High Court agreed this was unjust.
One of the three tax inspectors in the case, Beytullah Yurttutan, after he carried out this operation, was sent to the U.S. with his family. Upon his return, he resigned from the ministry. The second one, Metin Ölçek, was expelled from his duties on charges of being a member of the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ) after the failed July 15 coup attempt. Another inspector, Umut Mengüverdi, was also suspended after July 15.
The first sleeper cell was therefore eliminated.
The FETÖ gang in the Finance Ministry hit the wall in the first wave, but another conspiracy unfolded on September 2009. A second sleeper cell came up with a new unreasonable tax fine on the same sale. It handed the Doğan Group a fine of 3.9 billion Turkish Liras on the grounds that value added tax (VAT) was not paid during the pre-sale structuring of the Doğan TV shares. This despite the fact that the law and every related regulation excluded VAT in similar sales. When the interest for late payment was added to this fine, the total punishment was 5.63 billion liras.
Later, the total tax of 30 million liras was somehow multiplied by inspectors by 200 times, reaching 6.8 billion liras.
No such draconian fine has ever been seen in the world tax history.
Despite the Doğan Group winning every case in court, the tax administration demanded post-judgement correction and postponements, asking for assurances worth nearly 5 billion liras and starting provisional seizure proceedings.
Under this pressure, the Doğan Group opted to apply to benefit from the recently introduced tax amnesty law, and it paid 1.1 billion liras in tax fines.
All five members of that second sleeper cell in the Finance Ministry were suspended from service after the July 15 coup attempt on suspicion of being members of FETÖ/PDY.
Their supervisors, who occupied higher positions during these conspiracies, have also been suspended from civil service or arrested.
Six years have passed since those tax cases. Now, a conspiracy to finish Turkey’s biggest and most impartial and media group has finally be revealed.
A significant portion of Aydın Doğan’s fortune, which made him Turkey’s leading taxpayer for many years, was thus seized by this gang.
Remember the universal saying: “Truth has a habit of revealing itself at the right time.”