An inquiry by authorities shed light on how the controversial Gülen Movement, which is accused of being associated with terrorism in Turkey, funded its activities using money donated by unsuspecting followers. The probe revealed Gülenists used a donation scheme to receive money from followers to fund a U.S.-based company linked to the movement.
The financial arm of the Gülenist Terror Organization (FETÖ), an affiliate of the Gülen Movement named in indictments in Turkey, is accused of a string of wrongdoings, including two coup attempts. Having recently come under the spotlight as Turkey seeks to cut off support to the group, the FETÖ's three "imams," or point men, who oversaw its activities in Ankara have already been arrested on charges of being members of a terrorist organization and financing terrorism while two other wanted imams fled to the United States in the wake of a recent investigation. Prosecutors investigating the "himmet" scheme - a type of donation - for which 13 suspects, including five imams face charges, found out Gülenists collected "himmet" to fund charities at conventions for movement followers held in Ankara, with the money later being transferred to a U.S.-based company, which authorities have not identified, via Bank Asya, a major bank linked to Gülenists.
The suspects are accused of collecting about TL 15 million ($5.3 million) from low-ranking members under the guise of donations for "the renting of Gülenist schools, the construction of new schools and aid to the poor." The financial crimes unit of the police traced the money to a company based in Istanbul. Further investigation showed the company, a member of the food sector, was a subsidiary of a U.S.-based company and money that was accumulated in the company's Istanbul accounts was later directed to accounts in the U.S. to finance the FETÖ's activities. The group is allegedly behind two coup attempts, the illegal wiretapping of thousands of people, blackmail, setting up sham trials to imprison critics of the Gülen Movement, money laundering and several other crimes, according to Turkish prosecutors. The terrorist organization is an extension of the Gülen Movement whose followers have infiltrated the police force, judiciary and other key state institutions, according to prosecutors.