By Humeyra Pamuk
WASHINGTON -The United States will seek to extradite a Turkish businessman from Austria so he can appear before a U.S. judge in Utah, where he is facing charges of conspiring to commit money laundering and wire fraud, the U.S. Justice Department said on Monday.
Sezgin Baran Korkmaz laundered more than $133 million in fraud proceeds through bank accounts that he controlled in Turkey and Luxembourg, the Justice Department said in a statement.
Korkmaz, it said, was arrested in Austria on Saturday at the department’s request following the unsealing of a superseding indictment charging him with conspiracy to commit money laundering, wire fraud and obstruction of an official proceeding.
Reuters was not immediately able to identify Korkmaz’s lawyers for comment.
The businessman is also being investigated by Turkey, where prosecutors in December detained 10 executives working at Korkmaz’s companies, after Turkey’s Financial Crimes Investigation Board (MASAK) said the companies were used for money laundering, Turkish state-news agency Anadolu reported.
The Turkish ambassador to Austria told Dogan News agency on Sunday that Korkmaz was detained on Saturday in a town about 260 km (160 miles) from Vienna and that Turkey had initiated an extradition process with Austrian authorities.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry did not return a call for comment.
It was not immediately clear where Korkmaz would be extradited. He is believed to have left Turkey in December before the police raids.
U.S. prosecutors say the fraud proceeds stemmed from a scheme involving the filing of false claims for more than $1 billion in renewable fuel tax credits for the production and sale of biodiesel by Utah-based Washakie Renewable Energy LLC.
Washakie could not immediately be reached for comment.
Korkmaz and co-conspirators allegedly used the proceeds from the scheme to buy the Turkish airline Borajet, hotels in Turkey and Switzerland, a yacht named the Queen Anne and a villa and an apartment on the Bosphorus in Istanbul, the Justice Department said.