Turkish Authorities Go After Builders of Collapsed Structures

As the death toll from a disastrous earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria a week ago keeps rising, so does the number of individuals detained over the poor construction of buildings that crumbled to dust.

Turkey-Syria Earthquake MontageConsequences of the disastrous earthquake in Syria and Turkey. Top to bottom, left to right -- Syria; Adıyaman; Hatay; Gaziantep; Hatay; and Diyarbakır. (Photo: Tasnim News Agency, Wikimedia, License)The Turkish Interior Ministry reported Monday that “31,643 people have lost their lives in Kahramanmaraş, Gaziantep, Şanlıurfa, Diyarbakır, Adana, Adıyaman, Osmaniye, Hatay, Kilis and Malatya and Elazığ,” while 158,165 people have been evacuated from the quake-hit areas.

At the same time, the Turkish state news agency Anadolu reported that authorities have detained those believed to be responsible for the poor construction of contemporary apartment complexes.

The country’s Justice Ministry said on Sunday that investigations had been initiated against more than 130 persons in connection with the collapsed structures, with 10 people already taken into custody.

The suspects are believed to have circumvented building regulations and the compulsory earthquake insurance system that was introduced after the 1999 earthquake that killed nearly 17,000 people.

According to Anadolu, prosecutors of Anatolia's Malatya city issued warrants against 31 people suspected of being involved in the poor construction of buildings that collapsed even though they were advertised as quake-proof.

Authorities in Istanbul reportedly arrested Nazmi Tosun, the construction supervisor and technical representative of the crumbled Emre Apartmani building in Gaziantep. Other builders in that province were also arrested, including Ibrahim Mustafa Uncuoglu and Mehmet Ertan Akay, who was wanted for “reckless manslaughter and building code violations,” according to the report.

Hasan Alpargun was arrested in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, following the collapse of buildings constructed by his company in the city of Adana.

Another arrest in Istanbul attracted attention in Montenegro. Turkish media reported on Saturday about the arrest of Mehmet Yaşar Coşkun, one of two Coşkun brothers, whose construction company had built the Renaissance Residence complex in Hatay province’s capital Antakya. The structure completely collapsed during the earthquake.

Coşkun and his brother Hüseyin Yalçın Coşkun have advertised the 250-apartment building in Antakya as “a square of heaven.“

Mehmet Yaşar Coşkun was reportedly detained at the Istanbul Airport as he attempted to flee Turkey for Montenegro.

The brothers have been running their Montenegro-registered firm Antis Montenegro Consulting since 2017. The company offers technical and legal assistance to those seeking a residence permit and citizenship in Montenegro.

The company has also built a luxurious residential building on Montenegro’s Adriatic coast.

According to media reports, the local population of the tourist resort Budva was against the construction of the object and many now fear it would collapse in case another earthquake hits the country. Montenegro is also situated in an earthquake sensitive region.

Authorities in Budva allowed in June 2019 the Coşkun brothers to build the luxurious object on a cliff above the neighborhood of Bečići, Montenegrin outlet Vijesti reported.

According to the land registry, most of the apartments and garage plots were sold to Turkish buyers.

The brothers also own two plots of land totalling nearly 900 square meters, also in Budva.

Antis Montenegro’s website and Facebook profile have been suspended over the weekend.