During all his life, Bahadir Ozgurjournalist specialized in economics of the Turkish newspaper ‘One day’has been 16 problems. Actually, of course, he has had more, if not what luck, but the biggest, the most important, are exactly 16.
The last of them happened in 2021: “The last complaint I received was 2021, during the pandemic. I published several articles about the terrible conditions to which the workers who built the presa hydroelectrica de Yusufeli they were subjected. There were no protection measures due to Covid, nor any kind of security, and when the workers protested, the police locked them up in the dam. They were forced to work and prevented them from coming home. Many workers died,” explains Özgür.
The company that built that dam was known to everyone in Turkey and since recently, it is also in spain: Limak Holdingone of the largest construction companies in the Anatolian country and who will be in charge from the next of the remodeling of the Camp Nou after Joan Laporta’s board of directors has granted the Turkish company the construction of the building in The Courts.
“Limak denounced me for insults, for allegedly damaging the name of the company. In Turkey, it happens to journalists that when you write the name of a company in an article, they they automatically denounce you for insults. It’s normal now. In that case I was acquitted, but only because in my texts I spoke only of the Labor conditionswhich in Turkey are horrendous, with workers who in most cases do not have a contract, are undocumented or even refugees, and if they are killed or injured they receive no compensation. Discussions about workers’ rights do not matter much to these companies; investigations of, for example, their political connections Yeah. That is another matter”, says Özgür, one of the Turkish journalists who has investigated the largest Turkish construction companies the most.
A large part of his other 15 complaints go that way. These companies, famous in Turkey for their proximity to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, are popularly known as the “five o’clock mafia”. Limak is among them.
Birth and explosion
The company nation in 1976and it was not until the 90s, with tourism and its first construction contracts in the new countries born from the disappearance of the Soviet Unionwhen it started to grow. Everything changed, however, in 2003: when Erdogan rose to power.
Erdogan and Nihat Ozdemirpresident of Limak, had known each other years before, when the Turkish politician was mayor of istanbuland Özdemir flirted with his party at the time, the Welfare. With Erdogan in power, Limak Holding exploded: “In the early 2000s, Limak became a giant, an empire, with a very close relationship to the government. The company became one of the five large companies that win the vast majority of public tenders for large infrastructuresAs the Istanbul Airport and the Canakkale in Puente“, Explain Aytug Ozcholakonline newspaper journalist ‘Thorn’.
Istanbul Airport, opened in 2018, is the largest airport in Europe. During its construction, unions complained that the abysmal working conditions caused the death of at least 200 workers, something the Turkish government denies. In fact, during the play, the police entered the premises to repress several strike attempts. When the airport opened, images of the leaky building went viral in Turkey, as well as comments from experts who ensured that the takeoff and landing runways they had not been built properly, and that over time they would sink into the ground.
The Çanakkale Bridge, from 2022, is the suspension bridge longest in the world. Here, bigger is better. “In Limak, the most important point for us was our entry into the cement sector in the 2000s. We evaluate privatizations very well”, said Özdemir, the owner of the company, a decade ago.
And he was right: “Just three months after coming to power in 2003, Erdogan changed the legislation of the public tenders. Previously, Turkish legislation was based on that of the European Union: a contest was open to the public, the offer that matched the best price to the established conditions won, anyone could apply”, explains Özgür, who continues:
“Erdogan did not accept this. He changed the law to add a exception to the rule: in the event of a natural disaster, risk to the population, pandemic, war, attack, etc., the State is no longer obliged to create a public tender, but instead, alleging the need to start some quick works, it can award this work by hand. Erdogan took this exception, and all the big projects in Turkey have been done on this basis for years, long before the pandemic,” says the journalist.
According to the reporter, dozens of people and entities have filed complaints with the courts. Nothing has ever gone anywhere: “Everything is done like that. Istanbul airport, Çanakkale bridge, roads, highways, hospitals, itself presidential palace from Erdoğan. Everything is built based on this exception in the law, with allocations by hand. And the vast majority of them are given to the ‘mafia of the five’ companies, although in reality there are more than five”.
the chosen ones
Their names are Limak Holding, Cengiz Holding, Kalyon Group, Makyol Group and Kolin Holding. And the presidents of these companies, the richest men in Turkey.
“These companies have been chosen by Erdogan to be listed as the largest in the country. So, what does Erdogan get for his generosity? What does the State get by always giving its megaprojects to the same companies? At the moment it is not known”, says Özçolak.
“This is the great question says Özgür, which in Turkish means ‘free’. We do not know. Of these companies, a part has been born purely from within Erdogan’s party, from people close to the president. And they have become millionaire companies solely thanks to public concessions. The only thing we know is that, and that they love to do gifts to Erdogan in the form of mosques, stadiums and other buildings.”
“This is why it is surprising that they have succeeded in building the Camp Nou,” concludes Özgür. As far as I can remember, it is the first time that Limak gets a work abroad without doing it through the Turkish government”.