ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s law enforcement authorities have widened their probe into a case involving allegations of defense industry espionage, charging more individuals in addition to dozens detained earlier.
In the new phase of the investigation, Turkish prosecutors ordered the detention of nine individuals, including two who work for the country’s top procurement agency, the Presidency of Defense Industries, or SSB. The others include one retired colonel, one active colonel, one active lieutenant colonel, one active major and three private sector officials.
The suspects are accused of sharing classified commercial and industrial data with foreign agents and companies, “especially concerning Turkey’s naval programs,” according to a law enforcement source.
The government reported in January that it had detained six suspects in an alleged fraud scheme involving defense industry contracts. Then in March, security and intelligence forces detained 26 people during a joint operation, charging the suspects with defense industry espionage and of belonging to what the Turkish government claims is a secretive terrorist organization run by self-exiled Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen. Those detained in March are former employees of state-controlled entities.
After the first wave of detentions, Turkish officials set up a commission made up of experts from the Navy, the Defense Ministry and the chief prosecutor’s office. The commission concluded that suspects forwarded classified or secret documents to foreign defense companies and their agents.
Government officials said they plan to draft new bill to authorize heavier penalties for those committing defense industry espionage. The current penalties for industrial espionage carry prison terms of up to 10 years.
Burak Ege Bekdil is a Turkey correspondent for Defense News. He has written for Hurriyet Daily News, and worked as Ankara bureau chief for Dow Jones Newswires and CNBC-e television. He is also a fellow at the Middle East Forum and regularly writes for the Middle East Quarterly and Gatestone Institute.