Prominent Turkish businessman Cem Uzan, now a fugitive seeking asylum in France, was sentenced to 23 years in jail Thursday on corruption charges, Anatolia news agency reported
The court found Uzan guilty of “leading a criminal gang,” “serious fraud” and “falsification of official documents,” Anatolia said. The 49-year-old is believed to be in France, where he lodged an asylum request in September.
Thursday’s trial was one of sever0419_turkey_cem_uzanal legal cases launched against the Uzan family after a massive banking scandal. The Uzan empire, once among Turkey’s richest, began to fall apart in 2003 when authorities seized two power utilities operated by their companies, the first move in a judicial onslaught against the clan on corruption charges.
The authorities later took over the family’s flagship bank, Imar, and discovered a huge deficit that officials described as the biggest banking fraud in Turkey’s history.
Citing the Uzans’ reluctance to negotiate a repayment scheme, officials went on to seize all their 219 companies in 2004 in a bid to recover some 5.6 billion dollars needed to reimburse Imar account holders.
Cem Uzan, who also chairs a small nationalist party, fled Turkey in violation of court orders banning him from leaving the country, apparently in fear of impending convictions.
He risks decades in jail in at least four other cases on charges ranging from embezzlement to bribery and fraudulent bankruptcy. His father and brother are also on the run.
Uzan has argued that the charges were designed to destroy his political career: his party was once seen as a rival of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party.