World Inside the gleaming developments that made Hamas a $1bn...

Inside the gleaming developments that made Hamas a $1bn terror group

-

- Advertisment -

Most of Trend GYO’s projects are in Bursa, arguably home to prime real estate for centuries as the first capital of the former Ottoman Empire.

The Telegraph visited all five of Trend’s Anda Park towers developments in the city, slats of glass and concrete angling into the sky against the imposing Mount Uludag.

Some flats seemed to sit empty, although others had residents peering out from behind tinted windows and white lace curtains. A few children played on rainbow-coloured playgrounds while stray cats lounged in the sun.

The largest complex, Anda Park Millet, has 135 residences across four buildings.

Signs that read “satilik” or “kiralik” dotted the perimeter fences, indicate properties for sale and rent.

Trend GYO’s Anda Park apartments are on the market for as high as 7.5 million Turkish lira (£220,000) and for rent starting at around 20,000 lira (£600), according to residents and property listings.

Such prices are steep in Turkey, where the mean income was 62,800 lira (£1,840) last year, according to government data.

Billboards at an olive grove on the western edge of Bursa confirmed that Trend GYO is working on a sixth development as stated on the company’s website – the Trend Boulevard Houses, which will house 240 apartments and six commercial units.

In Istanbul, Trend GYO is also behind a project for the city’s commerce university.

“The real-estate sector is a great way to hide dirty money [as] property prices tend to be fairly consistent,” said Nicholas Ryder, a professor of law and specialist on terrorist financing at Cardiff University.

There’s even a chance to “get a return on it as well, as a potential investment”, he added.

Trend GYO is now valued at about 567 million lira (£15.5 million) on the Istanbul stock market.

“Hamas has generated vast sums of revenue through its secret investment portfolio while destabilising Gaza, which is facing harsh living and economic conditions,” said Elizabeth Rosenberg, a US Treasury official, when Trend GYO was first sanctioned in May last year.

After each round of US sanctions, Trend GYO appears to have tried to distance itself from alleged links to Hamas, typically by making corporate changes or shifting its shareholders, according to the Telegraph’s review of company filings since the firm’s 2018 market debut.

In May 2022, six days after the US announced its first sanctions targeting Trend GYO, the company released a statement saying it “always fully complies with applicable laws in all its business and transactions”.

Trend GYO also said that the individual sanctioned by the US, Hisham Younis Yahia Qafisheh, agreed to resign as requested by the board, would sell his stake, “and no longer has any relationship with our company”.

Mr Qafisheh was one of four partners that owned Trend GYO when the company sought regulatory approval to list on the stock market, and his signature can be found on publicly available company documents.

The US government alleged last year that Mr Qafisheh was the deputy of Usama Ali, appointed in mid-2017 as head of the Hamas investment office, “a position from which he coordinated financial transfers to Hamas”.

Washington also maintained that Mr Ali served on Hamas’s executive committee, and had direct contact with senior Hamas members, including leader Mr Haniyeh. Mr Ali was sanctioned by the US last year, and Mr Haniyeh in 2018.

On Oct 20, Trend GYO again issued a similar statement two days after a new round of US sanctions, saying that the person sanctioned, Amer Kamal Sharif Al-Shawa, had ceased all affiliation with the firm as of 2019.

But The Telegraph’s investigation reveals that Mr Al-Shawa does remain linked to Trend GYO. He’s one of three investment committee members of Investrade Pörtfoy Yönetimi, a Turkish firm with ties to Trend, according to stock exchange filings.

Such changes are an attempt to “obfuscate Trend GYO’s continued affiliation with Hamas by transferring ownership to other parties,” the US Treasury said in a statement.

Indeed it was when Mr Qafisheh sold his shares last year that Mr Şengüler – named in last week’s sanctions – bought into the company with an initial stake of 5.56 per cent, according to a year-end company financial report.

Mr Şengüler upped his holdings to more than 22 per cent of the company in the first quarter of this year, according to company filings.

At the start of this year is also when Ms Yiğidoğlu, 31, another individual sanctioned last week, appeared for the first time in Trend GYO’s financial reports.

‘Sprawling global network’

Mr Şengüler, 64, a Turkish national born in Egypt, heads his own real-estate empire, Ala Property, and has managed various projects in northern Iraq, Bahrain and Libya,

Much less is said about Ms Yiğidoğlu, a Turkish national, mentioned in the same company records, beyond that she previously worked as a Turkish teacher at a “private international educational institution”, at one point was the manager of a real-estate company, and “speaks Arabic very well”.

Ms Mangoush, 37, the third Trend shareholder recently sanctioned, has held company shares since mid-2019, when previous owner Saleh Mangoush transferred over his entire stake of nearly 24 per cent. It’s unclear if the two are related, and the Saudi national has since sold some of her holdings.

Trend GYO represents only one corner of a sprawling global network of companies with associated with influential figures rumoured to have ties to Hamas.

Trend is part of the Al-Ahmar Group, which has 90 companies operating in several sectors, including banking, real-estate, travel, mobile phone operators, as well as oil and gas, according to a LinkedIn profile.

The group’s firms include Saba Islamic Bank, Sabafon GSM, Yemen Gas Company, and IYS Yapi, which operate in many countries, including Bahrain, Yemen, Djibouti and Turkey.

Al-Ahmar Group is led by Sheikh Hameed Al-Ahmar, an influential Yemeni businessman. He was an original owner of Trend GYO, and board chairman until Mr Şengüler took the reins, according to company records.

Many of Al-Ahmar Group’s Turkish-based entities share the same office address in Istanbul’s Kagithane district, including Trend GYO, Investrade Pörtfoy Yönetimi, IYS and Saba Investing, and appear to do some business together, as detailed on LinkedIn profiles and in company filings.

Pictures with Mr Erdogan

Some of the company websites lack a professional veneer, with incorrect grammar and few, if any, details regarding its executives, operations and projects – perhaps another sign that these are, as the US believes, front companies.

“Our team of partners are a big team of expertise in many sectors from technical, management and marketing,” proclaims the website of Saba Investing, based in Istanbul.

Company executives also appear to have links – or at least have access – to senior levels of the Turkish government, which does not consider Hamas a terrorist group.

Mr Al-Ahmar, for instance, has been previously pictured with Mr Erdoğan .

And in 2014, a Turkish newspaper reported that Mr Erdoğan called Mr Şengüler, the Trend GYO board chairman sanctioned by the US last Friday, to send condolences after the unexpected passing of his son.

Trend GYO did not respond to a request for comment, although it issued a company statement after the most recent sanctions.

“Our company does not provide any financial support to any organisations, which is not possible according to the laws it adheres to” and “is accountable for every penny spent, adhering to the principle of transparency,” it read.

Investrade and Ala Property, of which Mr Şengüler is the CEO, did not respond to requests for comment.

Ms Mangoush, Ms Yiğidoğlu, Mr Al-Ahmar, the Al-Ahmar Group and Hamas could not be reached for comment.

‘What can I do now?’

The Trend-built housing complex next door has had little impact on Kezban’s life beyond bringing more families to the neighbourhood, some of whose children are classmates of her own.

“We always greet each other,” she said.

Still, tensions are present in Turkey, where pro-Palestinian sentiments are common, layered over a rich Jewish heritage during the Ottoman Empire.

All this is laid bare in Bursa’s historic city centre, where a Palestinian flag is draped on a rocky mountain slope capped with a clock tower. “We say no to war and massacre,” proclaims the banner.

Steps away is a 15th-century synagogue, founded by Jews who took refuge here after fleeing Spain’s Mallorca. Local police, however, barred the Telegraph from taking pictures of the historic building.

“We didn’t have this information [about Hamas] when we purchased the apartment,” said one woman, 39, a Bursa native who owns a flat built by Trend GYO, and declined to give her name.

“But what can I do now? I bought it already.”

With reporting by Özlem Temena

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Latest news

- Advertisement -

Must read

Lady Gaga and Cardi B Meet at the Grammys

What was expected of her was the same thing...
- Advertisement -

You might also likeRELATED
Recommended to you