TURKEY: Pimps, underage prostitutes seized in raid on alleged vice boat
A sex scandal has gripped Turkey after media reports emerged of how the historic luxury yacht formerly belonging to the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, was turned into an floating vice den involving underage prostitutes and rich businessmen.
Turkish prosecutors are moving to take legal action against the Savarona, one the world's largest yachts, according to Turkish media reports.
Turkish law enforcement officers stormed the pompous 400-foot vessel earlier this week as it was sailing near the Turkish Mediterranean town of Gocek. They detained 14 people on board, including foreign businessmen and underage girls brought to Turkey from Russia and Ukraine for high-cost prostitution through foreign modeling agencies, reported Turkey's Hurriyet newspaper.
The young women were allegedly traded among customers for $3,000 to $10,000.
The raid came after a seven-month investigation prompted by tip to a public prosecutor in the Turkish Antalya district about an an alleged vice ring operating aboard the ship.
A Kazakh national, a businessman identified only as T.A. by the English daily Today's Zaman, allegedly served as the head of the prostitution ring and was in charge of the gang's finances and finding wealthy customers for the floating sex parties.
Among those rounded up in the ship raid on suspicions of having sex with minors was another Kazakh citizen, identified as P.S. by Today's Zaman. He allegedly worked as a consultant to Kazakhstan's prime minister.
Meanwhile, the ship itself has been seized by the Turkish government. It had been rented out by the Turkish finance ministry to Turkish businessman Kahraman Sadikoglu on a long-term lease spanning 49 years back in 1989.
According to the Turkish daily Haberturk, Sadıkoglu had paid $60 million to the finance ministry for the rights to operate the ship. To help cover high operating costs amounting to millions of dollars, he started renting out the Savarona to well-off tourists for between $30,000 and $40,000 per day.
The finance ministry for its part is reportedly trying to cancel its lease on the ship after the sex scandal surfaced.
Lavish sex parties with minors staged onboard Ataturk's Savarona may be viewed by many Turks as a grave insult to the memory of the founding father of modern Turkey, who used the yacht to receive high-level guests during the last year of his life.
"I have no more words to describe the desecraters of Kemal Ataturk and his legacy... other than a very public humiliating and the most severe sentence possible for their act of treason against the state," read a comment by H. Kemal on the website of Hurriyet newspaper.
Another commenter on the site, Sylvia, joined in the chorus.
"Punishment cannot be harsh enough, and these men should be named in public," read the commentary.
Others were simply stunned by the unprecedented scandal.
"On Ataturk's boat for crying out loud?," wrote another contributor.
On Thursday, the Turkish Culture Ministry announced that it will transform the Savarona into a museum, according to media reports. The ship, with its 17 luxury suites was built in 1931, for the daughter of Brooklyn Bridge chief engineer John Roebling. A few years later, it was sold to Turkey.
-- Alexandra Sandels in Beirut
Top photo: Police detain suspects during a raid on the Savarona earlier this week as part of a probe into an alleged prostitution ring operating onboard the luxury yacht. Credit: Today's Zaman
Bottom photo: The MV Savarona is one of the world's largest yachts. Credit: Hurriyet