The timeline of this is certainly interesting.
While Erdogan’s support of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Palestinian branch – Hamas, of Morsi in Egypt, and of al Qaeda fighters in Syria did not seem to upset the Obama Administration, it has made the Russians nervous. With good reason: The large Chechen community in Turkey that supports the separatist and Islamist terrorists in Russia’s Caucasus.
Indeed, Erdogan’s current crisis began with a 2011 Russian crack-down on a drug-money-laundering ring in this area, which laundered revenues from trading Afghan opium with the Taliban. The investigation also revealed illegal gold transactions in Russian banks, which the Chechens shared with their Turkish counterparts. This probe led to the December 17, 2013, arrests of the sons of a Turkish minister and 34 other suspects, and to mass demonstrations against the government.
The unraveling mess does date back to the period of the Syrian Civil War and the intricacies of the triangle of Turkey-Syria-Iran. In the convoluted politics of the current Middle East, Turkey is fighting Iran in Syria, but collaborating with it on sanctions dodging.
Unfortunately for Turkey, that put Russia and Iran in a position to learn about a lot of the dirty business that Turkey was involved in.
Zerrab, arrested last week in the investigation, is claimed to have distributed TL 137 million ($66 million) in bribes to three ministers and their sons to cover up faked exports and money laundering, which are reported to be largely connected with Iran. Ş.D. reportedly sent tip-offs to the Ministry of Finance about Zerrab’s alleged bribery, as well as to the offices of the prime minister and president.
According to the daily’s report, the Russian Federal Customs Service laid the foundations of the investigation when it discovered, in December 2011, millions of dollars in cash in a suitcase belonging to an individual returning to Russia from Turkey. When the Russian investigation revealed money laundering activities between Russia and Turkey, the Russian authorities informed Turkey of the illegal activity, the daily stated. The information provided by Ş.D., a year after Russia notified Turkey of the illegal activity, assisted Turkish authorities in discovering how the money laundering was being performed.
According to the daily, on Dec. 14, 2011 Russian police discovered a total of $18.5 million in a suitcase at Moscow’s Vnukovo Airport. The Russian authorities found that four suspects detained in Russia were involved in money laundering and had transported, in 37 trips, a total of $40 million and 10 million euros between Russia and Turkey.
Russian officials would not crack down on large scale money laundering like this ordinarily, because anyone running that much money through the system has already paid the appropriate bribes. That would have been as true in Turkey as in Russia.
But after Erdogan’s push into Syria, the Russians may have decided that the price of alienating Turkey from NATO is no longer worth paying.