VIDEO: Fire burns down Ottoman mansion bought by implicated businessman

VIDEO: Fire burns down Ottoman mansion bought by implicated businessman

VIDEO: Fire burns down Ottoman mansion bought by implicated businessman

DHA Photo / Elvan Ezber

A fire has burned down an Ottoman mansion on Istanbul's Asian side, which was recently sold to a businessman implicated in the Dec. 17 corruption scandal.

The Hüseyin Avni Paşa Mansion, which is located in the Üsküdar neighborhood on the Asian side of the city, became engulfed by flames on the afternoon of June 28.

It was not immediately clear what caused the fire, which completely destroyed the historic building. Firefighting crews and helicopters battled to prevent the destruction of the grove around the mansion.

Cengiz Holding, the corporation that owns the mansion and the grove, released a statement in the evening, stressing that the fire started on the roof of the building and the Fire Department will report about its cause. Cengiz Construction applied to restore the vacant mansion last year and authorities issued a permission just five days ago, the statement said. "Cengiz Construction will rebuild Hüseyin Avni Paşa Mansion in its original form," the corporation added. 

Mehmet Cengiz, who owns Cengiz Construction, had bought 65 percent of the property from Turkey’s state-run Savings Deposit and Insurance Fund (TMSF) for 31.7 million Turkish Liras in 2007. He bought the remaining 35 percent of the 81,511 square-meter plot from Erdem Holding for 20.8 million liras in 2009. 

In March, the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality denied reports that the grove had been zoned for construction following the purchase, while Cengiz Construction announced that the land had a“frontal view” of the Bosphorus, meaning that it is protected. It said it had made no attempt or filed any request to develop the area.

On Jan. 13, a court lifted an asset freeze that had been applied on seven prominent businessmen, including Mehmet Cengiz, implicated in the Dec. 17, 2013 graft probe.

Hüseyin Avni Paşa, who gave his name to the grove, was a 19th century Ottoman statesmen who served in modern-day Bulgaria and Greece as a civil servant and military officer before his appointment as Ottoman chief of staff. He was murdered in June 1876, shortly after leading a coup d’etat.