• Sat. Apr 20th, 2024

NYC Mayor Adams event with local Turkish-American groups went unreported to election regulators

NYC Mayor Adams event with local Turkish-American groups went unreported to election regulators


Less than a month before the FBI conducted a series of raids as part of an investigation into whether Turkey’s government funneled illegal money into his campaign, Mayor Adams and a longtime aide attended a private party with members of two Turkish-American interest groups — and the event went unreported to city regulators, the Daily News has learned.

The Oct. 9 function, which took place in New Jersey, was described by multiple participants as a fundraiser for Adams’ reelection bid. Participants gave thousands of dollars to Adams’ 2025 campaign on the day of the event and the day before it, city Campaign Finance Board records show.

Under city law, political candidates must file disclosures with the CFB identifying as “intermediaries” any individuals who host fundraisers for their campaigns involving donations that exceed $500 and are made “in connection” with the events.

Adams’ 2025 campaign has reported no intermediaries for the October event or filed any other records about it, paperwork obtained by The News via a Freedom of Information of Law request shows. The event was alternately described as a “reception” in an online photo caption.

Vito Pitta, Adams’ campaign lawyer, confirmed the October event occurred, but wouldn’t say why no intermediaries were reported for it. Pitta also wouldn’t say whether the campaign considered the event a fundraiser or how much money was raised as part of it.

A CFB spokesman declined to comment on the October event other than to say the board can only announce enforcement actions, which can include fines, after an election’s over.

Photo shows Mayor Eric Adams shaking hands with Ali Kocak, president of the Turkish American Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Over Kocak's shoulder is Rana Abbasova, Adams' former director of protocol in International Affairs Office. (LinkedIn)
Photo shows Mayor Adams shaking hands with Ali Kocak, president of the Turkish American Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Over Kocak’s shoulder is Adams aide Rana Abbasova. (LinkedIn)

Photos reviewed by The News show Adams was joined at the Oct. 9 shindig by Rana Abbasova, a staffer in his International Affairs Office at City Hall who first started working for him when he was Brooklyn borough president.

Less than a month after the event, Abbasova’s home was raided by the feds on Nov. 2, part of a string of FBI actions that first brought the Turkey probe to light. After the raid, Abbasova was suspended from City Hall because Adams’ lawyers and sources said she had “acted improperly” by telling staffers to delete texts exchanged with her.

There’s no indication investigators in the federal probe are looking at the October event, or the two groups whose members attended it, the Turkish American Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Turkish American National Steering Committee. The Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office, which is leading the Turkey probe, declined to comment.

But it marks the first known event involving donors to Adams’ 2025 campaign who are also members of Turkish interest groups.

The FBI probe’s believed to be focused mostly on whether Turkey’s government pumped illegal cash into Adams’ 2021 campaign coffers via straw donors.

**NYDN EXCLUSIVE** FBI agents raid the Brooklyn home of Mayor Adams' campaign consultant, Brianna Suggs, according to a source and published reports. Suggs raised money for Adams during his 2021 campaign. (Obtained by Daily News)
FBI agents leave the Brooklyn home of Mayor Adams’ campaign consultant, Brianna Suggs, after a raid in November. (Obtained by Daily News)

Since the probe first became publicly known, several connections between Adams and Turkey have emerged. That includes his Turkish government-funded trips to the country, political support from Turkish groups in New York, an attempt as Brooklyn BP to help resolve building violations at Turkey’s Manhattan consulate and a dinner meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The Oct. 9 event marks another connection. The mayor has not been accused of any wrongdoing, nor have members of the groups involved in the event.

While Pitta wouldn’t say how much money was raised, The News independently confirmed $9,100 in donations from six people who attended it.

One of those individuals is Eyüp Ulu, a businessman who described the event as a “fundraiser” in a recent interview, and said he helped host it in a communal space in a building near the Lincoln Tunnel where he has an apartment. With his son, Ulu gave a combined $4,200 to Adams’ campaign on the day of the event, the max amount allowed by law, records show.

Besides running an export-import business, Ulu’s a board member of the Turkish American Chamber of Commerce and Industry, known as TACCI.

Photos posted on TACCI’s website show its members attended a Manhattan dinner with Erdoğan in 2022, and the group maintains ties to other top Erdoğan regime officials, according to leaked emails reported by HuffPost. Other photos on the group’s website show its members have met multiple times with Reyhan Özgür, Turkey’s consul general in New York.

TACCI has a history with Adams, too.

Its president, Ali Kocak, organized a dinner for then-BP Adams on Nov. 25, 2014 to speak with him about “TACCI’s mission and its activities” and “possible cooperation,” a post on the group’s website says. TACCI also posted Facebook photos of Kocak with Adams at Brooklyn Borough Hall in 2015.

Kocak attended the October event as well, a photo on TACCI’s website shows.

The photo depicts Kocak shaking hands with Adams, while Abbasova, the mayor’s aide, stands in the background. The photo’s caption described the event as a “reception” held at Ulu’s “residence” to “honor” Adams.

Kocak, who didn’t donate to Adams, said Ulu invited him. He said he attended because he believes functions involving local politicians are important.

Abbasova declined via her lawyer to comment. Pitta said Abbasova has only participated in Adams campaign activities in a “personal” capacity.

Abbasova has not been criminally charged; she is the only person to date to be publicly accused of impropriety in connection with the FBI probe. Adams was stopped in the street in November by FBI agents who seized his cellphones.

Rana Abbasova (NYC.gov)
Rana Abbasova (NYC.gov)

Ulu said about 15 people attended the October event and that most of them gave to Adams either on the day of or in the days beforehand. He said he didn’t have a list of those donors, but CFB records show 17 individuals gave Adams’ campaign $21,900 on Oct. 8 and 9.

One of those individuals is Tahir Erimli, an ex-TACCI vice president. He gave $1,000 to Adams’ campaign via credit card on Oct. 9 before going to Ulu’s event because he said he was told it was a “fundraiser.”

Another individual who attended and gave the legal $2,100 max on Oct. 9 to Adams was Huseyin Bayram, a restaurant owner and ex-deputy mayor of Patterson, N.J., whose eatery catered the event, a TACCI blog post says.

Bayram is a board member of the Turkish American National Steering Committee, or TASC, an influence group aligned with Erdoğan that has a history of cultivating a relationship with Adams that dates back to his BP days and includes donations to his 2021 campaign, as first reported by The News in December.

Members of Erdoğan’s family are among TASC’s founders, and the group’s activities include “targeting American citizens who are eligible to vote for candidates who can shift policy with Turkey in a pro-Erdoğan direction,” according to human rights group Influence Watch.

Bayram didn’t return requests for comment this month.

President of TACCI Ali Kocak, speaks during the Women entrepreneur meeting hosted by The Turkish American Chamber of Commerce and Industry (TACCI), in New York, New York. March 7, 2023. (Mostafa Bassim/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Kocak speaks at an event hosted by the Turkish American Chamber of Commerce and Industry in March 2023. (Mostafa Bassim/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

While the event happened at a building where he has an apartment, Ulu said it was co-organized with Cemil Ozyurt, owner of the Turk of America magazine, and a businessman named Cuneyt Cakir.

Ozyurt, who gave $1,000 to Adams on Oct. 8, declined to comment this month, as did Cakir, who didn’t donate.

Also on Oct. 9, Adams’ campaign accepted donations from Murat Agirnasli and Murat Sonmez.

Agirnasli, who gave $1,000, runs Agime, a real estate firm whose website says most of its New York projects are done “in partnership” with KSK, a Brooklyn contractor that’s reportedly being scrutinized in the FBI probe over allegations its executives helped facilitate Turkey’s Adams campaign straw donor scheme. Erden Arkan, KSK’s owner, is listed as an Agime “advisory board member.”

Sonmez, who gave $2,100, worked as a KSK manager between 2007 and 2013, his LinkedIn profile says.

Both Sonmez and Agirnasli told The News their donations were unrelated to Ulu’s event.

“It is just a coincidence,” Sonmez said.



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