Saturday, May 17, 2008

kidnapping, corruption and illegal imprisonment: investors beware

On Thursday night, Haber Turk reporter interviewed Mr. R, owner/engineer of a construction company, for a TV slot sometime next week when the crew returns to Turkey. The last thing a businessman from Turkey wants to do is alert the Turkish media to problems in Kurdistan, a move which could harm future investments made by Turkish companies and strain relations between the informant and those government officials and business people facilitating his/her work in Kurdistan (a rapidly developing place with many more large project opportunities than Turkey). So why has Mr. R decided to talk? Local media has encouraged him to do so as a kind of life insurance. Sound overly dramatic? To me too, but apparently the occurrence of people disappearing in car accidents, although no longer common, is still a possiblity... especially when the people crossed are rich and powerful.

After over a year of difficulty (stemming from a construction project which Mr. R's company completed, but was not paid for), he started a law suit against his employers (which we will call M Co.). His employers laughed and said (translation into English), "What kind of game do you think you are playing? We OWN Kurdistan! We can buy anyone." These threats turned out not to be false claims. The first scary incident was when the court engineers went to survey the site. Mr. R was kidnapped during the visit of the court engineers and taken to an office belonging to M Co. while they bribed the engineers to under-represent the work done. At that time, an employee of M Co. tried to take away Mr. R's camera containing photos of the site. Fortunately the camera had already been sent off-site with another engineer.

A few months later, in November 2007, Mr. R was arrested on false charges and put in a jail in Sulemaniya where he stayed for 3 weeks. During that time, it was discovered that his lawyer had been bought by the other side and had been hiding out in Germany while all scheduled court cases continued without the awareness of Mr. R and with the non-attendance of Mr. R's lawyer, a lawyer who despite having complaints filed against him at the Association of lawyers - he had been accused of fraud and other such legal infractions before - is again giving seminars and practicing law in Erbil. A new lawyer was found and since then, Mr. R has won every court case. However, this doesn't mean the worries are over. Although the court cases were all decided in Mr. R's favor, still no movement to pay the debt has been made. Hence Mr. R contacted government officials to urge them to enforce the court's decision, all of whom were supportive of his claims. But now, it appears there are new players on the field. It has surfaced that yet another politician is involved... and has been involved all along with the corruption being perpetrated by M Co. This has caused the other politicians (those supportive of enforcing the court decisions) to back off. Perhaps the weak system of government can't support fractions between politicians in the same or opposing parties? I don't really know, but am curious to see what will happen after the Turkish media has been alerted.

Please note that there is another side to this story. In Kurdistan, there exists not only those small companies that can't defend themselves here in the absence of enforced policies and laws, but also those in on the corruption - big companies using bribery to get the plumb contracts and then charging high fees for shoddy materials and workmanship... or just taking the money and running with the job left unfinished.

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