(Washington, D.C.) — The Turkish Democracy Project (TDP) calls on General Electric to clarify its association with the Turkish company Kalyon Holding, a company that has been given access to thousands of noncompetitive public tenders in exchange for supporting President Erdogan’s anti-democratic policies.
In autumn 2021, TDP initiated a campaign researching international companies connected to corrupt Turkish construction firms and nefarious government sponsored projects. TDP research has found that American multinational General Electric (GE) is associated with a number of highly controversial projects.
GE is currently collaborating on the Karapinar Solar Plant Project in Konya Karapinar, launched in partnership with Kalyon Energy, a subsidiary of Kalyon Holding. Celal Kalyoncu, Chairman of Kalyon Holding, is a close ally of President Erdogan, and part of a circle of oligarchs dubbed the “gang of five” by media and opposition.
Kalyon Holding was part of the infamous “gang of five” consortium that won a historic $29 billion government tender to build the new Istanbul airport in 2013. This extravagant project was criticized for its inhumane working conditions, resulting in the death of 52 construction workers, and the damage it caused to Istanbul’s remaining forests and water basins.
In 2014, Kalyon Group acquired the Turkuvaz Media Group under suspicious circumstances. According to leaked tapes posted in February 2014, Erdogan, then Prime Minister, met with the five oligarchs in his home and asked them to pool money to enable Kalyon Group to acquire the media group. The purchase of Turkuvaz Media Group enabled Erdogan’s government to gain indirect control of a substantial portion of Turkey’s remaining free press. In return, the gang of five were guaranteed future access to non-competitive public tenders.
Having identified extensive reputational, legal and environmental risks linked to General Electric’s involvement in Turkey, TDP sent a letter on January 19, 2022 to General Electric’s Chairman, H. Lawrence Culp, Jr.
General Electric responded to TDP stating its “sincere commitment to integrity throughout [its] global organisation” and its active engagement “with external stakeholders to identify human rights risks throughout [its] value chain”. Yet, its business dealings in Turkey and current association with Kalyon Energy which, according to GE, went through a “stringent due diligence process”, undermines its asserted “strong adherence to compliance and the rule of law”.
Commenting on General Electric’s ongoing association with Kalyon Energy, Ambassador Mark D. Wallace, CEO of the Turkish Democracy Project said:
“We urge GE to justify its cooperation with Kalyon Holding, which is part of a deeply corrupt network of companies, owned by a group of oligarchs that provide critical capital and resources to Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (“AKP”). By collaborating with Kalyon Holding, GE is complicit in Turkey’s slide into authoritarianism as well as with the regime’s mass defrauding of the Turkish public. Erdogan’s costly handouts to the gang of five contribute greatly to Turkey’s budget deficits and growing public debt, while average Turkish citizens struggle with rampant inflation caused by the President’s gross mismanagement of the economy.”