Turkish prosecutors study alleged Islamic charity scam

Türkiye Materials 11 September 2008 15:57 (UTC +04:00)

Turkish prosecutors may open their own inquiry into a scandal currently before a German court where an Islamic charity allegedly siphoned off donations, Hurriyet newspaper reported on Thursday.

There have been claims in Turkey that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) was a beneficiary of the alleged scam, reported dpa.

Three former operators of the Deniz Feneri Foundation admitted to a court Frankfurt this month that they embezzled donations from devout Turks living in western Europe.

Opposition parties in Turkey and anti-government newspapers have taken up news reports from the trial to accuse Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's party of obtaining funds from the alleged embezzlers.

Erdogan has categorically denied the allegations. The opposition has demanded an official inquiry.

The three men on trial in Frankfurt, aged 45, 44 and 40, allegedly siphoned off 18.6 million euros (30 million dollars) in cash from the bank accounts of the German-registered branch of Deniz Feneri.

The charity raised foreign-relief funds among well-off Turkish communities in Germany and the Netherlands through a Deniz Feneri television programme. The title means lighthouse.

Advertisements on the internet, in the press and on a Dutch-based television channel Euro 7 used images of human suffering in Turkey, Pakistan and other nations, prosecutors said.

Police established that donations to Deniz Feneri from early 2002 until the end of April 2007, when an inquiry into the charity became public, had totalled 41 million euros.

The trio are accused of 200 specimen counts of embezzlement but the court heard 20,000 donors were tricked. The accused were told their jail terms would be no more than six years if they pleaded guilty.

They said the money went into real-estate and other investments in Turkey. They had also bought a cruise boat, the Baltic Kristina, in the name of Deniz Feneri and were operating it on the Latvian coast.