Pro-Erdogan firm benefits from heavy diesel discount

Construction vehicles belonging to the consortium building Istanbul’s third airport, which includes a firm run by pro-government businessman Mehmet Cengiz, were sold tax-free diesel fuel, according to a report by the Airport Haber news portal on Monday.

The firm’s vehicles were reportedly sold diesel fuel at TL 1.15 a liter, nearly three times cheaper than the going rate of around TL 4. Diesel fuel and gasoline prices in Turkey are extremely high due to built-in taxes that account for the majority of the pump price.

The Cengiz-Limak-Kalyon-Mapa-Kolin consortium won the tender to build the third airport just over two years ago in May 2013. The airport will replace Istanbul’s main Ataturk International Airport, which currently sustains passenger traffic beyond its capacity. It is likely that the Ataturk airport will be closed after the third airport is finished. Despite the necessity for a new airport, the third airport has been criticized heavily for its location near the city’s major reservoirs and forests. Critics argue that the construction and completion of the airport will result in disastrous environmental consequences.

Media reports in early 2014, attributing the information to wiretapped phone calls, said Cengiz was part of a Turkish group of businessmen who allegedly contributed a total of $100 million each to a pool of money to buy the media group Turkuvaz, the owner of pro-government dailies Sabah and Takvim and TV stations ATV and AHaber.

Cengiz gained notoriety for his use of vulgar language in a leaked wiretapped telephone conversation. In the phone conversation recorded during the legal surveillance of a graft investigation, Cengiz is heard telling a friend, “We will f*** this nation.” He was allegedly referring to the purchase of Turkuvaz. Cengiz has won 28 public tenders in the past 10 years with a total value of almost TL 100 billion, according to news reports from earlier this year.