Turk convicted of graft wrote Kanal Istanbul environmental report – Bianet

The owner of the Turkish company that completed an Environmental Impact Assessment Report for a proposed shipping canal through Istanbul was convicted of bid-rigging and bribery in 2013, only to be acquitted three years later, Turkish news website Bianet said.

Selahattin Hacıömeroğlu, founder and owner of Çınar Engineering and Consultancy Inc., received a 50-month jail sentence for the crimes in 2013 following an investigation by the Energy Ministry, Bianet reported on Friday. The Court of Cessation overturned the court rulings in 2016, it said.

Kanal Istanbul is a personal project of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has ordered construction of the 45-km waterway to divert shipping from the winding Bosporus straits, which runs through the centre of Istanbul. But the project has sparked opposition from environmentalists, engineers and scientists, as well as Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoğlu, who said this month he was withdrawing the city’s support for the project.

Çınar prepared EIA reports for several coal-fired thermal power plants in Biga, in northwest Turkey, including a power plant owned by its own Biga Energy Electricity Production Inc.. Construction of the plant started in 2015, but the ministry did not accept the report and Hacıömeroğlu handed over the energy company, Bianet said.

Çınar Engineering has won 42 public tenders over the past eight years worth 24 million liras ($4.03 million) from several different state-run enterprises, including the Ministry of Forestry and the General Directorate of Highways, Bianet said.

Yüksel Proje was the only company that submitted a bid in a tender to assess the environmental impact of the $10-billion canal. Yüksel, which has won several big government contracts including for services for the Istanbul Eurasia Tunnel and the third Bosporus Bridge, then handed the work for the EIA to Çınar Engineering, which prepared a 1,595-page document.

Criteria for the tender included the effect of the canal on Turkey’s geostrategic value and the risk posed by the transportation of hazardous waste to Turkey’s national security, Bianet said.