The Ministry of Home Affairs will carry out a thorough background check of Ilker Ayci, the newly appointed Chief Executive Officer of Air India. Soon after the announcement of his appointment as the head of Tata’s recently acquired Air India, allegations of his connections to the terrorist organization Al-Qaeda had emerged.

News agency PTI quoted people familiar with the development, saying such background checks are common for foreign nationals in case they get appointed to the key positions in any Indian company. Notably, the process of the security clearance of Ayci will begin only after MHA receives any communication from any one of the Civil Aviation Ministry, the Tata Group of the nodal ministry. Sources suggested MHA might take support from external intelligence agency RAW for background checks on Ayci.

Ayci’s connection to Turkey and Al-Qaeda

Twitter user BhikhuMhatre wrote a detailed thread on why the investigation in Ayci is necessary. Though it is a common practice to do background checks of foreign nationals, in the case of Ayci, there are allegations against him that cannot be ignored.

Ayci has been a close aide of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Notably, the Turkish President is a close supporter of Pakistan and often stands against India on the International platform. Turkey is currently in the Grey List of Financial Action Task Force (FATF), just like Pakistan, over the allegations of terror funding.

Ayci has been connected to Erdogan since 94 when he became Mayor of Istanbul. At that time, Ayci was appointed his advisor. Ayci was later appointed as the chairman of Turkish Airlines and had resigned from the post in January 2022.

Apart from his association with Erdogan, according to a report in Atalayar in 2020, Ayci, who was the former chairman of the Turkish Investment Support and Promotion Agency (ISPAT), had promoted private investments and ventures by Yasin al-Qadi, the former alleged Al-Qaeda financier. As per the report, Ayci had met al-Qadi in Cengiz Aktürk’s personal office. Aktürk was also a suspect and trusted member of al-Qadi.

Al-Qadi, an Egypt-born Saudi national, was singled out by the United States Department of Treasury and the United Nations Al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee for alleged links to financing terrorist groups. Sanctions were applied against him, and his assets were frozen by several investigating agencies. However, his name was later removed from the blacklist after several courts had cleared his name.

Erdogan’s sons, Necmettin Bilal and Al-Qadi, were prime suspects in a corruption investigation in 2013. However, Erdogan allegedly used his powers to prevent the arrest and cover up the crimes.


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