The most interesting news involves First Merchant Bank (FMB) in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). The TRNC is only recognized by one country, Turkey.
In August 2004, US Treasury blacklisted First Merchant Bank because:
Pursuant to Section 311 of the USA PATRIOT Act, FinCEN (Treasury) found First Merchant Bank to be of primary money laundering concern based on a number of factors, including:
(1) it is licensed as an offshore bank in the TRNC, a jurisdiction with inadequate anti-money laundering controls, particularly those applicable to its offshore sector; (2) it is involved in the marketing and sale of fraudulent financial products and services;
(3) it has been used as a conduit for the laundering of fraudulently obtained funds; and
(4) the individuals who own, control, and operate to launder criminal proceeds.
All of which is apparently true. The problem is that this was all publicly known at least as far back as 1997, when a member of the Susurluk Commission said that First Merchant Bank was being used to launder money and finance terrorism for the “Susurluk Gang.”
In fact, Treasury essentially admitted that they knew all this when they blacklisted First Merchant Bank in 2004:
Domestic and foreign newspapers and magazines report that First Merchant Bank has been used for illicit transactions since its founding in 1993. Apparently, First Merchant Bank was established, at least in part, to facilitate the movement of funds between organized crime rings and corrupt politicians. The earliest indicators of illicit activity on the part of First Merchant Bank or its principals involved the original shareholders or partners of the Bank.
One of the original partners of First Merchant Bank is reported to be a former KGB employee identified as Vladimir Kobarel, who allegedly involved First Merchant Bank in transferring underground money to Russian banks. Another original partner, Tarik Umit, was a former Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MIT) member who was believed killed in connection with a well-known Turkish investigation into links between the Turkish mafia, the MIT, and right wing politicians (the Susurluk scandal).
First Merchant Bank, Tarik Umit, and Dr. Hakki Yaman Namli are alleged to have been involved with the laundering of $450 million in narcotics proceeds for the “Susurluk gang.”
The Susurluk scandal began with an automobile accident in Susurluk, Turkey, on November 3, 1996. Four people occupied the automobile: The deputy police chief of Istanbul; an alleged “extreme nationalist hit man” previously convicted of heroin trafficking and wanted for terrorism; the hit man’s girlfriend…; and a member of the Turkish Parliament, whose private militia had helped the army fight Kurdish militants…. The trunk of the car was full of weapons.
The incident received national notoriety and served as the basis for Parliamentary investigations into links among politicians, the arms trade, and organized crime.
Despite this, it took the US Government until 2004 – 3 years after 9/11 – to shut down First Merchant Bank.
It took them three years to shut down First Merchant Bank despite the fact that, according to the Wall Street Journal, Al Qaeda was known to be using the TRNC to launder money.
It took them three years to shut down First Merchant Bank despite the fact that the FBI knew that the bank was being used for these purposes by early 2002 at the latest.
It took them three years to shut down First Merchant Bank despite the fact “the criminal Turkish networks” had “direct and indirect role and ties” to 9/11.
It took them three years to shut down First Merchant Bank, despite the fact that, as Sibel has noted, “After 911, the US Government engaged in mock investigations and shut down many small Islamic charities and organizations, giving the appearance of action in the so-called ‘War on Terror.'”
Why would the US government be slow to act when it came to shutting down First Merchant Bank?
There are some clues in the recent interview. Sibel states that, based on information that she has first-hand knowledge of, First Merchant Bank was used by “US government agencies,” “certain US government people,” “certain non-profit organizations in the US,” “certain US institutions including banking institutions,” and “certain US-based organizations” to launder and distribute money.
Some of the money was undoubtedly sent back to the US. Some of this money went to finance various Turkish/Israeli ‘lobbying’ efforts, including the American Turkish Council, the Assembly of Turkish American Associations, and the Turkish American Cultural Alliance. Some of this money financed various ‘lobbying’ groups including ex-House Speaker Bob Livingston’s The Livingston Group and ex-congressman Stephen Solarz‘s various lobbying companies. Some of this money was shovelled into “campaign contributions – legal and illegal, declared and undeclared” for congress members, including Roy Blunt, Tom Lantos, and Dan Burton. Some of this money was simply stuffed into suitcases for ex-House Speaker Dennis Hastert, and presumably others. And of course, most of this money simply went into personal bank accounts via First Merchant Bank’s correspondent banks “including JP Morgan Chase, BNP Paribas, Doha Bank, Mizuho, Riyad Bank, and UBS.”
But not all of the money was sent to the US. As Sibel says in the interview:
“This bank was also used, actively, by certain government agencies in the US, with certain operations dealing with Central Asia“
Sibel doesn’t elaborate on this point, probably because she can’t without facing severe repercussions, but the idea that US government agencies were using a terrorist-financing, money-laundering bank for ‘certain operations’ in Central Asia is cause for much concern. Of even greater concern is the possibility that the US government might be ‘forced’ to ignore evidence in some particularly egregious crimes in order to cover up their involvement in other nefarious activity.
Sibel has often noted that the US government has been busy establishing military bases in Central Asia, and that there are “certain entities (involved) within other countries – such as Turkey, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan – many Central Asian countries… it’s not necessarily only governmental” – and that the US government, particularly the Pentagon and State Departments, have “absolutely covered up the involvement of certain entities.”
Similarly, Sibel says that both the Pentagon and State Department intervened to prevent relevant counter-intelligence information being transferred to the FBI’s counter-terrorism division, and elsewhere, where it could be acted upon “involving money laundering tied to some terrorist activities, by let’s say, Turkish individuals, or some Pakistani individuals, or entities here in the US (whether official governmental related entities, or others.)”
Which “certain operations” in Central Asia could Sibel be talking about that could possibly justify turning a blind eye (or worse) to all this? I wrote about one possibility in 2008 :
“(An) illegal, covert, CIA operation involving the intentional Islamization of Central Asia. This operation has been ongoing since the fall of the Soviet Union in an ongoing Cold War to control the vast energy resources of the region – Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan – estimated to be worth $3 trillion”
For that article, Sibel said:
“You’ve got to look at the big picture. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the super powers began to fight over control of Central Asia, particularly the oil and gas wealth, as well as the strategic value of the region.
Given the history, and the distrust of the West, the US realized that it couldn’t get direct control, and therefore would need to use a proxy to gain control quickly and effectively. Turkey was the perfect proxy; a NATO ally and a puppet regime. Turkey shares the same heritage/race as the entire population of Central Asia, the same language (Turkic), the same religion (Sunni Islam), and of course, the strategic location and proximity.
This started more than a decade-long illegal, covert operation in Central Asia by a small group in the US intent on furthering the oil industry and the Military Industrial Complex, using Turkish operatives, Saudi partners and Pakistani allies, furthering this objective in the name of Islam.”
Sibel added that, during this time, the US government ‘harbored, supported and resourced’ a multi-billion dollar enterprise, which established madrassas and mosques throughout Central Asia and the Balkans. Was First Merchant Bank used to finance this Central Asian project?
Sibel does say in the latest interview that family members of the presidents of Turkey, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan also used First Merchant Bank – presumably to either launder money or make illegal payments. Sibel says that the brother of one of the Turkish presidents, Süleyman Demirel was an owner of the bank. Mizgin says that is Murat Demirel (although the Washington Post identifies Murat as the nephew of the president.) Turkish prosecutors wanted “a record 4,727 years in prison” for Murat’s role in embezzling money from another bank that he owned. He is said to have laundered the money though “offshore banks in northern Cyprus,” which may very well include First Merchant Bank.
Were certain “US government agencies” also paying off government officials in Central Asia , up to and including their presidents, via First Merchant Bank? If so, why? Was it to gain access via bribes to the massive oil and gas concessions available in Central Asia? Were there illegal payments made to ensure the establishment of military bases in the region? Or perhaps these certain US agencies were helping to fund the Susurluk gang, and/or other similar gangs, involved in “Strategy of Tension” activities throughout the region.
In fact, Sibel notes in the interview that two of the main people involved in her case, Under-Secretary of State Marc Grossman and the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Lt. Col Douglas Dickerson, were both prematurely pulled out of Turkey in the aftermath of the Susurluk scandal. Furthermore, Sibel has frequently noted that the particular FBI counter-intelligence operation that she worked on was opened at the end of 1996 (the trigger event for the Susurluk scandal, the car crash in Susurluk, was in November 1996.) It is certainly possible that the Susurluk event triggered the FBI’s investigation.
In the interview, Sibel says that “Just a simple check on the Dickersons would have brought out so much information and the stuff that they are considering State Secrets Privilege,” adding that at the end of 2001, Dickerson “started working for Douglas Feith’s office, dealing with certain Central Asian countries including Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Well, nobody ever looked, or wanted to look, or wanted to see this.”
(Dickerson tried to ‘recruit’ Sibel to conduct espionage in 2001 when she worked as a translator for the FBI, alongside his wife, Melek Can Dickerson, who is reported to work for Turkish intelligence. The Dickersons were forced to flee the country when Sibel reported them. They went to Belgium to work for NATO, then Japan, Iraq and Afghanistan. Douglas Dickerson is now back in the US to finish an MBA at Fuqua at Duke University.)
One other interesting part of the interview, highlighted by Mizgin, is that indicted spy Larry Franklin was working with Richard Perle and Douglas Feith at the ATC way back in 1994. According to Sibel, Franklin was “one of the top people providing information and packages during 2000 and 2001.” Despite many media reports to the contrary, Larry Franklin is not currently in jail, and it is not clear what will happen to him if the trial of Rosen & Weissman from AIPAC doesn’t proceed as planned in June.
(Speaking only for me)