Former Turkish Airlines chairman Ilker Ayci has declined Tata Sons’ offer to be the new chief executive officer of Air India, days after his Air India, days after he was accused of having links with terror outfit Al Qaeda following his appointment to lead the debt-laden airlines bought out by the Tatas.
“I have come to the conclusion that it would not be a feasible or an honourable decision to accept the position in the shadow of such a narrative,” said Ayci in a statement cited by Bloomberg, adding that his appointment to the position was ‘coloured’ by the Indian media.
Ayci was appointed to preside over Air India by Tata Sons on February 14, and he was expected to join the airline on or before April 1, according to a press release.
However, soon after the announcement of Ayci’s appointment as the head of Tata’s recently acquired Air India, allegations of his connections to the terrorist organization Al-Qaeda came to the fore. In the light of serious allegations levelled against him, the Ministry of Home Affairs was to carry out a thorough background check of Ilker Ayci.
Ilker Ayci’s links to Turkey and Al-Qaeda
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.