U.S. prosecutors asking Turkish SBK Holding to return convicted Kingston brothers' assets
Prosecutors in Utah have submitted a list of properties belonging to Jacob and Isaiah Kingston, also known as the Mormon crime brothers, to a U.S. court, asking for them to be retrieved, including a number of companies and real estates in Turkey.
The Kingston brothers, owners of Utah based energy company Washakie Renewable Energy (WRE), pled guilty last year to a $470-million fraud of a government biofuel programme, which lasted nearly a decade.
Turkish businessman Sezgin Baran Korkmaz and his holding SBK were a business partner to the Kingston brothers since 2014, and helped WRE to invest in Turkey. Those assets in Turkey have been or still are managed by Korkmaz.
Around $140 million of the scheme was reportedly sent to SBK Holding, then invested in buying companies or real estates.
The Kingston brothers and Armenian descent businessman Levon [Aslan] Dermen were indicted in 2018, but both brothers and other family members of the Kingston family, flipped and pleaded guilty later on, leaving Dermen as the only standing defendant in the case. Dermen was convicted in early 2020.
The Kingstons’ WRE was the headquarters of the fraud, producing paperwork to apply for a $1 per gallon stimulus from the Internal Revenue Services (IRS) claiming that it was turning sludge and wastes into biofuel. They then sent over $140 million to Turkey, losing traces of money in a safe haven. U.S. prosecutors stated during the hearings that U.S. law enforcement forces were unable to receive any cooperation from the Turkish side.
The money WRE sent to Turkey was invested in acquiring new companies and real estates, according to the prosecutors' documents submitted to the court.
One of the big acquisitions of the SBK holding was Biofarma drug firm in recent years.
According to the list U.S. prosecutors submitted to the court, the following properties or assets were bought with proceeds from an account associated Korkmaz and are being demanded to be retrieved from Turkey:
Any loans owed to Washakie Renewable Energy, LLC by SBK Holding, AS (Turkey)
Set-Ap Teknoloji (Turkey) (“Set-App Technologies, Turkey)
Biofarma, Ilac, AS (Turkey)Kervansaray Hotels (Bodrum, Turkey)
Blane Teknoloji AS (Turkey)
Mega Varlik Yonetim (Turkey)
Queen Anne yacht, registered in the Cook Islands
Isanne, SARL (Luxembourg)
Komak Isi Yalitim Sistemleri Sanayi (Turkey) Stone Isi Yalitim Sanayi Ve Ticareti
Korkmaz is known for delivering a keynote speech at the 2017 annual conference on U.S.-Turkey relations which was held for the first time at the Trump International Hotel in Washington. Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin was another keynote speaker of the same conference. Both businessmen currently cannot travel to the United States for different court cases against them.
Korkmaz mentioned his business connections to the Kingston brothers in numerous interviews before their crimes became public knowledge, and was captured in a photograph with Jacob Kingston and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in 2017.
Last year, Yalcin Ayasli, prominent Turkish-American entrepreneur and chairman of the Turkish lobby in Washington, D.C., launched a court case against Korkmaz, claiming that a group of Turkish defendants, led by Korkmaz, used extortion and money laundering to acquire his Turkey-based airline BoraJet.
Ayasli lost millions of dollars and high value real estate as part of the scheme, according to court documents.
Some of court documents submitted to the Utah District Court, showing the list of properties and assets: