The ugliness of kleptocracy is often easy to see; in fact, it is inescapable. Those who have visited Libya report that for an oil state it has very unimpressive infrastructure. Indeed, it is littered with half or less finished construction projects. A good example is the 28th of March stadium in Benghazi: 232 million dinars in contracts given between 2008 and 2011, millions disbursed to the contractor, and the work is still unfinished. Many of these were undertaken by Turkish companies whose contracts were terminated for corruption after the February 2011 revolution when Libyans began to investigate the money spent in their name. While it is well known in the West that Gaddafi was massively corrupt, the corruption of Erdogan is less well known.
The Investigative Journal has been privileged to receive a dossier from a Libyan whistleblower outraged at the waste he witnessed in his low-level construction position. One of the Libyan government contracts he has documented was an almost perfect storm of thievery. In 2009, more than 197 million Libyan dinars were spent on a 161-million-dinar contract (258 million euros at the exchange rate of 1.6 at the time) to renovate al Arab Medical University in Benghazi, and only 2% of the project was completed. This is by no means an exceptional or extreme case. Libyans know that they were the losers, but few are aware of who the winners were.
Now, the Investigative Journal brings together for the first time a story of the joining of Turkish and Libyan corruption.
Under Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has held power in Turkey as Prime Minister from 2003 – 2014 and subsequently as president, the construction and energy industries have been one of the driving forces behind the Turkish economy. Billions of dollars in contracts in Libya have been an important part of this revenue both under Gaddafi (with more than 25,000 employees of Turkish firms working in Libya before the 2011 revolution) and subsequently. Unsurprisingly, related kickbacks and commissions have been an essential means of rewarding Erdogan’s inner circle and Erdogan himself.
Turkish contractors first opened to the world from Libya, with STFA the first Turkish company which was awarded a contract in Libya back in 1972. Much of Libya had been a province of the Ottoman Empire for three hundred years. So once the Libyans had oil money, it was natural to turn to Turkey. After Gaddafi settled the Lockerbie reparations and gave up his chemical weapons in December 2003 and was partly integrated into the international community, construction projects in Libya accelerated. On November 25, 2009, the State of Libya signed a bilateral investment treaty with the Republic of Turkey.
Read more: Investigative Journal