De Facto: Sanctioned firm had Latvian bank links

Take note – story published 5 years ago

A Latvian-registered firm and its Turkish owner recently sanctioned by the United States for trying to sell arms to North Korea may hold several bank accounts in Latvia, though the extent to which these might have been used in connection with this activity is not clear, reported LTV's De Facto investigative news show October 28.

De Facto's Olga Dragileva reported on Falcon International Group, about which LSM recently wrote when it emerged that the Turkish company had a registered address in Latvia. The intrepid reporter visited the rural address listed on company documents and found it abandoned - a far cry from the modern farm facility with thousands of heads of cattle portrayed in the company brochure.

Latvian officials say they started monitoring the business this fall a few days before the U.S. sanctions were announced and an investigation into the financial transactions of Falcon and owner Huseyin Sahin is underway, though initially the business appeared to be a normal one owned by an overseas investor.

One theory being explored is that the Latvian company was required simply for its name, in order to facilitate payments involving the parallel Turkish business, which has an identical name.

De Facto named Rietumu bank as one of the banks that had a business relationship with Huseyin Sahin also involving a project in Minsk to reconstruct a hotel called Zhuravinka. Coincidentally of three non-Russian language reviews on TripAdvisor for the Zhuravinka hotel, the first and most positive was from a Turkish guest.

Rietumu bank declined to comment, and De Facto said it is believed Falcon had relationships with several other Latvian banks too.

Falcon International Group's website lists the farm in rural Latvia as its "Riga office" with the other office being in Istanbul.

The website also contains a bizarre brochure of the company's activities in a dazzling variety of fields, with some of the images showing jumbo jets and supertankers bearing the company logo clearly having been doctored. 

The U.S. Treasury personally sanctioned Huseyin Sahin. the Chief Executive Officer of SIA Falcon, who holds 100 percent of the voting capital and Erhan Culha who is a general manager of SIA Falcon. According to the information from the Treasury, earlier in 2018, SIA Falcon officials hosted North Korean government official Ri Song Un in Turkey "to negotiate trade deals involving weapons and luxury goods."

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