Asia

Turkey’s Sezgin Baran Korkmaz arrested in Austria, accused of laundering $133+ million in fraud proceeds

Sezgin Baran Korkmaz, 43, of Turkey has been arrested. The Turkish businessman was business partners with brothers Isaiah Kingston and Jacob Kingston, the respective chief financial officer and chief executive officer of Washakie Renewable Energy LLC (WRE), a biodiesel company based in Plymouth, Utah, United States.

Isaiah and Jacob have pleaded guilty in the U.S. over the tax credit scheme involving WRE. According to U.S. prosecutors, the company created fake production records to get renewable-fuel tax credits then laundered the proceeds from 2010 through 2016. With Lev Aslan Dermen, also known as Levon Termendzhyan, Isaiah and Jacob allegedly schemed to file false claims for renewable fuel tax credits, causing the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to issue more than $511 million to WRE. 

Termendzhyan owns NOIL Energy Group, a fuel company based in California, USA. On March 16, 2020, a federal jury in Salt Lake City, Utah convicted him of criminal charges relating to a $1 billion renewable fuel tax credit fraud scheme.

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Korkmaz is accused of falsely representing that through unnamed government officials, he could provide Isaiah and Jacob with protection from a federal grand jury investigation and civil lawsuits. The Turkish businessman allegedly laundered more than $133 million in fraud proceeds through bank accounts that he controlled in Turkey and Luxembourg.

Using the fraud proceeds, Korkmaz and his co-conspirators allegedly acquired a yacht named the Queen Anne, a villa and apartment in Istanbul, Turkey, hotels in Turkey and Switzerland and the Turkish airline Borajet. On December 5, 2020, he and his wife Gokcen Korkmaz left Turkey.

On April 28, 2021, a federal grand jury in Salt Lake City, Utah returned a superseding indictment charging Sezgin with one count of conspiring to commit money laundering, one count of obstruction of an official proceeding and 10 counts of wire fraud. On June 19, 2021, he was arrested in Austria at the request of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Sezgin is expected to be extradited to the U.S. and to appear before U.S. District Judge Jill Parrish of the District of Utah. If convicted, Sezgin faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for the money laundering conspiracy count, five years in prison for the obstruction count and 20 years in prison for each of the wire fraud counts.

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