One of the main companies allegedly shipping oil from ISIS-controlled oilfields in Iraq is BMZ, which is owned by Bilal Erdogan, son of the Turkish president and whose major shareholders include other Erdogan family members – Mustafa Erdoğan and Ziya İlgen. UK researchers show how the oil begins its journey in ISIS-controlled Iraq and enters Turkey via Kurdish-controlled Iraq: from there it ends up at the port of Ceyhan, where much of it is shipped overseas by BMZ. Then there is the matter of the alleged British connection…
(Note: this article provides a context and connects the dots that link research from two other articles – one from journalist/commentator Dr. Nafeez Ahmed and the other by F. William Engdahl, lecturer and strategic risk analyst. )
BREAKING: President Obama has demanded Turkey seal its border with Syria. If Turkey complies this will have two major consequences: 1) it will be more difficult for ISIS oil to be smuggled into Turkey; 2) it will provide the Syrian (Rojavan) Kurds the opportunity to link up their cantons and so declare autonomy. Or as The Independent puts it: “The US demand that Turkey finally close the border west of Jarabulus could, if Turkey complies, prove more damaging to ISIS than increased air strikes by the US, France and, possibly Britain”. With the recent Kurdish/SDF advances against ISIS, matters may be moving fast (though the Kurds are well advised to be wary of US promises).
To help understand the report below, first click here to see maps of the oil routes from ISIS to outside world.
A. The smugglers
Last year The Guardian reported on the oil smuggling operation from ISIS to Turkey, Iran and Jordan. This operation, involving six oilfields, helps to considerably fund ISIS. Iraq-based Kurdish traders act as go-betweens. The oil travels via Kirkuk to Iran and via Mosul to Turkey. Other supplies are smuggled into Jordan and (via Turkey) to Israel.
Another oil route into Turkey is from Syria via a pipeline at the Besaslan crossing. The oil smuggling business from ISIS-controlled Syria to Turkey is threatened by the Syrian Kurds (Rojava) and this is one of many reasons why Turkey opposes Kurd autonomy and is determined that the Kurd cantons bordering Turkey are not connected. According to one oil smuggler, “Turkey its most important export market, accounting for “the bulk of the oil trade that ISIS requires to sustain its war machine.””
But there is another reason why Turkey is determined that the oil trading business between ISIS and Turkey continues to flourish – a matter of family.
Bilal Erdoğan, a son of the Turkish president, owns the maritime company, BMZ. BMZ board members include: Esra Albayrak, Serhat Albayrak, Reyhan Uzuner, Ziya İlgen, Şule Albayrak, Ahmet Ergün, Bülent Turan, Mustafa Ataş, Doğan Kubat, Hasan Can, Mevlüt Uysal, Mustafa Demir, Yasemin Solmaz, and Zeynep Eker Ayhan.
BMZ owns wharfs in Ceyhan that are allegedly transporting ISIS crude oil in Japanese-bound oil tankers.
So let’s examine this scenario more. Over to Dr. Ahmed…
B. The Iraq-UK oil connection to ISIS
Dr. Ahmed states that a Turkish-British firm, Genel Energy, is contracted with the Iraq-based Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in the export of oil that is allegedly sourced from ISIS. Genel Energy boasts that it is “the largest independent oil producer listed on the London Stock Exchange”. Ceyhan is a major oil hub with supplies coming from Kirkuk (Iraq) and Baku. The terminal is operated by Botas International Limited (BIL), a Turkish state company that also operates the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline on the territory of Turkey.
Dr. Ahmed goes on to reference a research paper from the University of Greenwich that tracked down these oil smuggling routes. Based on a series of complex calculations the authors of the University of Greenwich paper concluded “that there are strong hints to an illicit supply chain that ships ISIS crude from Ceyhan. Primary research points to a considerably active shadow network of crude oil smugglers and traders who channel ISIS crude to southeast Turkey from northeast Syria and northwest Iraq”.
Dr Ahmed again: “Turkish opposition MP Ali Ediboglu last year said that some $800 million worth of ISIS oil had been smuggled into Turkey. He also said that over a thousand Turkish nationals were helping foreign fighters join ISIS in Syria and Iraq through Turkish territory. Both, he alleged, are occurring with the knowledge and involvement of Turkish military intelligence.”
Dr Ahmed adds: “a KRG Interior Ministry document leaked to the Kurdish media outlet, Rudaw, showed that a former opposition MP, Burhan Rashid, had accused KRG institutions of facilitating the flow of funds and arms to ISIS militants in Iraq. “A Kurdish political party in Erbil has supplied the ISIS militants with weapons and ammunition in exchange for oil,” Rashid is recorded as saying. The document revealed that the KRG chief public prosecutor had secretly prepared a lawsuit against Rashid for making the allegations…. Kurdish parliamentary sources familiar with the final report of the committee, which remains secret, told Rudaw the report had confirmed: “… a number of officials from the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Peshmerga have been involved in the illegal trade.””
A US investigations showed that trucks owned or operated by Meer Soma, a subsidiary of the Nokan Group, were being used to transport refined oil products from ISIS-controlled refineries to Kurdish entities in or near Kirkuk. The Nokan Group is owned by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), with the Talibani family (PUK) and Barzani family (KDP) raking in much of the profits.
The ISIS oil, via the port of Ceyhan, which BMZ uses as its main dock for many of its shipping operations, eventually ends up with Genel Energy, the UK-Turkish commpany.
It’s quite possible, of course, that neither Genel Energy nor Bilal Erdogan know anything of the oil’s true provenance. Whether or not that is the case, both companies should cease these transactions.
Note: In 2013 Bilal Erdogan together with his brother Burak and certain Al-Qaeda affiliates (Sheik Yaseen Al Qadi and Osama Khoutb) were named in an investigation into an alleged corruption scandal. But the investigation never proceeded as police officers in Istanbul Security Directorate, only newly appointed by the government a few days previously, refused to carry out their orders, and the Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions did not approve this new operation either. The man who initiated theinvestigation, Prosecutor Muammer Akkaş, was dismissed. But a second wave of arrests was planned, and a list was to the press. Consequently, a government decree was published, removing 350 police officers from their positions, including the chiefs of the units dealing with financial crimes, smuggling and organised crime. Here is a voice recording allegedly featuring the voice of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ordering his son, Bilal, to dispose of vast amounts of cash — as much as $1 billion, according to claims. (Here is an English version of the full transcript of the audio.)