Just days before Thanksgiving, the political heat in New York City is turning up on Mayor Eric Adams. With a political history “stuffed” with ties to Turkey, controversy fills the air, calling into question Adams’ potential complicity in illegal campaign financing for his 2021 mayoral bid.
Adams abruptly left Washington D.C. on November 2, just ahead of his widely anticipated discussions on the impact that unchecked illegal immigration has had on his city. His departure followed news that the FBI conducted a raid on the residence of Eric Adams’ chief fundraiser, Brianna Suggs, as part of a public corruption probe related to Adams’ 2021 mayoral campaign. The investigation focused on allegations of a potential straw donor scheme involving the campaign, the Turkish government, and a Brooklyn construction company.
Throughout the investigation, Adams maintains that he has not been charged with wrongdoing. But his political past, checkered with chumminess to Turkey, may cast doubt on his innocence and widen the scope of the investigation.
Eric Adams participated in nearly 80 events celebrating Turkey during his eight-year tenure as Brooklyn borough president. These included various occasions, such as a flag-raising ceremony in 2015, attendance at a charity ball in 2018, and a virtual meeting with the Turkish consul in 2020.
In 2019, Adams appeared with Martha Stewart at a gala honoring Turkish Airlines, a company now under FBI investigation. A noteworthy photograph from the event captured Adams holding hands with two company officials over a sheet cake. Following his victory in the mayoral race, Adams appointed one of these officials, Cenk Öcal, to his transition team.
On November 2, the FBI conducted raids at various locations, including the home of a Turkish Airlines executive. A review of Adams’ Borough Hall schedules uncovered three references to the airline. These included two scheduled banquets and a cryptic entry on October 2, 2015, stating, “Reschedule 4 p.m. Turkish Airlines. Rana my gifts.”
Shortly after his mayoral victory, Adams traveled to a real estate conference in Istanbul. Mysteriously, the meeting was omitted from his daily schedule.
The FBI has taken notice of the solid connections between Adamas and multiple Turkish organizations, many of which are now being investigated as part of the ongoing straw donor probe.
Rana Abbasova, Adams’ liaison to New York’s Turkish community, was reported to the federal authorities. Abbasova had flagged at least three meetings and events during Adams’ tenure as borough president, including a 2015 grand opening celebration for a Turkish restaurant in Brooklyn, all labeled “important.”
Also in 2015, Adams took two trips to Turkey, with the first occurring in August and funded by various entities, including the Turkish consulate and Turkish Airlines. This detail was not included in the mandatory annual disclosure. Four months later, the Association of Young Tourism Leaders financed another trip to Turkey for Adams, and the following year, he took another with his son. In all, Adams has acknowledged six trips to Turkey.
Travel to Turkey wasn’t exclusive to the mayor. In October 2022, Frank Carone, then Adams’ chief of staff, participated in a real estate conference in Istanbul along with Edward Mermelstein, the city’s international affairs commissioner. The trip, funded by Turkish real estate group GYODER, was noted by Mermelstein in his financial disclosure but omitted by Carone, who claimed to have self-financed foreign trips.
The FBI is also investigating an incident where Adams potentially exerted improper influence on city officials in 2021 to facilitate the opening of a $300 million high-rise housing the Turkish consulate in midtown Manhattan. As the planned ribbon-cutting neared, fire safety officials initially withheld approval. Despite not yet being in office, Adams, who had won the Democratic primary, intervened at the request of the Turkish consul general. He texted then-FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro, prompting an investigation and ultimately leading to the issuance of a temporary certificate of occupancy.
Shortly after assuming the role of Brooklyn borough president in 2014, Adams welcomed the consul general to Borough Hall. They held six more meetings with the Turkish consulate representatives over the years. According to his public schedules, China was the only country whose representatives he engaged with more frequently.
The Instagram page of the New York Turkish consulate, dating back to 2019, features 19 posts highlighting Adams, making him one of the more frequently featured elected officials on the profile page.
Adams is cooperating with the ongoing investigation, but his Turkish ties are ensnarling him in a web of controversy. This is one Turkey he doesn’t want to share at the Thanksgiving table.