Anti-corruption authorities in the United States and Sweden are reviewing a complaint alleging that the Swedish affiliate of a U.S. company pledged to pay tens of millions of dollars in kickbacks if a son of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan helped it secure a dominant market position in the country.
The proposed plan was detailed in communications and business documents seen by Reuters, as well as by a person familiar with the matter. Reuters is reporting this plan and the resulting preliminary probes for the first time.
Ultimately, no kickbacks were paid, according to the complaint submitted to authorities by an individual and reviewed by Reuters. In fact, Dignita Systems AB, the Swedish company, abruptly abandoned the project late last year, according to two people familiar with the matter and company communications seen by Reuters.
Dignita’s U.S. owner confirmed to Reuters that the project was dropped, saying it had learned of “potentially concerning conduct” in Turkey and terminated several people involved.
The company’s plan, according to the complaint, was for the administration of President Erdogan to pass regulations that would boost sales of Dignita’s product: dashboard breathalyzers that lock a vehicle’s ignition when the driver is inebriated.
In return for 10 years of commercial exclusivity selling its products, Dignita committed it would pay tens of millions of dollars in lobbying fees, via a shell company, to two institutions for which Bilal Erdogan is a board member, the complaint says.
Although the effort was scuttled in September, it provides rare insight into how an investor regarded Bilal Erdogan as a key person to gain access to President Erdogan, who won a new five-year mandate on May 28.
Dignita’s chief executive officer, Anders Eriksson, told Reuters he could not discuss the alleged scheme because he was about to leave the company and bound by a confidentiality agreement.
Through a lawyer, Bilal Erdogan said allegations that he colluded with Dignita “are completely incorrect.” It is a “web of lies,” the lawyer added. A senior official with the Turkish presidency’s communications directorate declined to comment for this article.
Reuters was unable to confirm independently whether President Erdogan and his son Bilal were aware of, or had involvement in Dignita’s alleged kickback scheme.
After receiving the complaint in April, the U.S. Department of Justice and Swedish prosecutors tasked a special agent and a detective inspector, respectively, to conduct preliminary probes and determine if any provisions of American and Swedish anti-bribery laws may have been violated, according to official responses seen by Reuters. The preliminary probes may not lead to formal investigations or charges.
This is a shortened version of an article originally published by Reuters.
The views and opinions expressed above are the author’s and do not reflect those of the Free Turkish Press.