(CN) – Yalcin Ayasli, a Turkish-American entrepreneur who founded the now-defunct airline BoraJet, amassed a personal fortune that made him a formidable power broker in both his birth and adoptive countries.
That was before he crossed paths with Turkish businessman Sezgin Baran Korkmaz. Korkmaz has ties to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, but he is known in the United States for giving testimony in the investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
On Tuesday, in a federal racketeering complaint replete with globe-spanning intrigue, Ayasli accused Korkmaz of taking over his airline through a campaign of violence, extortion and financial crime.
Korkmaz's labyrinthine ties to the Turkish elite and the murky underworld of American financing can be encapsulated in a picture.
Taken in 2017, the same year Mueller subpoenaed him for a grand jury in Washington, the photograph shows Korkmaz standing between Erdogan and an accused white-collar criminal.
Along with his brother Isaiah, with whom he leads a polygamist Mormon sect, Jacob Kingston is awaiting trial on allegations that he cheated the U.S. Treasury out of more than half a billion dollars worth of tax credits, at least $210 million of which he allegedly funneled into Turkey.
Represented in his 127-page lawsuit by the law firms Jones Day and Sheehan Phinney, Ayasli accuses Korkmaz of running a thuggish campaign to devalue Borajet and then buy out the company with the illicit proceeds at a “fire sale” price using his Istanbul-based SBK Holdings.
The suit is filed in New Hampshire, where Ayasli says he maintains his primary residence in Hillsborough County. Contacted in Turkey via social media, Korkmaz defended his dealings with the now-indicted Kingston clan.
“My local bank verified the source of the accounts through the U.S. Federal Reserve,” Korkmaz said. “I invested that money in completely legal companies in Turkey and took every precaution that can be reasonably expected to make sure everything was above board.”
For Korkmaz, the lawsuit against him is “transparent” payback by ex-BoraJet executives. “I have done absolutely nothing wrong other than objecting against being embezzled,” he insisted.
Sheehan Phinney attorney Robert Miller declined to comment on his suit with Ayasli, which accuses Korkmaz of assault, attempted bribery, and threatening to rape and murder Ayasli’s female executive.
Within a span of six months, Ayasli alleges that Korkmaz sent him 137 text messages, including WhatsApp warnings that “You and your wife will look for a place to hide” and “I will disgrace you before the eyes of the whole world.”
The tale told in Ayasli’s lawsuit intersects with two high-profile U.S. criminal cases, hopping across Istanbul, Utah and Virginia.
Born in Turkey’s capital of Ankara, Ayasli studied electrical engineering in his home city before obtaining advanced degrees at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1973. He would live in Massachusetts for about three decades and make his fortune founding Hittite Microwave Corp., a public company that he later sold for $2.45 billion.
“Dr. Ayasli is an individual with a deep sense of pride in his Turkish heritage,” his lawsuit states. “Accordingly, after selling his technology company, Dr. Ayasli invested substantial portions of the proceeds of that sale in domestic and foreign non-profit entities and businesses. He did this in pursuit of his overarching goals of promoting and educating people about Turkish culture worldwide and supporting friendly relations between Turkey and the United States.”
Those nonprofits, the Turkish Cultural Foundation and Turkish Coalition of America, remain among the most prominent charities of their kind in the United States. BoraJet had been intended as an expression of Ayasli’s national pride as well, connecting the world to parts of Turkey rarely accessible through air travel.