A Turkish oligarch has been revealed as the secret owner of chunks of central Aberdeen.

Billionaire Sevket Sabanci bought up the city’s two main shopping centres - Bon Accord and St Nicholas - as well as some surrounding property five years ago.

But the tycoon - whose family is one of Turkey’s most powerful - did so through a complex series of tax haven holdings meaning his name has never been mentioned.

Now Mr Sabanci’s holding firm, The Herald can reveal, has quietly revealed its ownership after its offshore dealings emerged in the Turkish press through the giant “Paradise Papers” data leak of late last year.

Staff contacted by The Herald were unaware of any Turkish beneficial ownership of the centres.

The Herald:

Sevket Sabanci 

News media have previously named other entities as owners of the centres. Most recently, Aberdeen’s city paper, The Evening Express, described a UK business called Capreon as Bon Accord’s “owner”. This is incorrect.

A spokesman for the firm said: “Capreon is the Asset Manager for the owners of the shopping centre, called Aberdeen Shopping Centre Ltd. This organisation is backed by a group of investors, which includes the Sabanci family.”

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The Herald can confirm that the property is held by two companies registered in the tax haven of Guernsey called Aberdeen Shopping Centre Limited and Aberdeen Shopping Centre Limited No2.

It is not unusual for retail property in the UK to be owned offshore, including in the Channel Islands.

SNP MP Kirsty Blackman, whose Aberdeen North constituency includes the shopping centres, has been campaigning on corporate transparency in the House of Commons.

She said: “The Bon Accord Centre has been a fixture in Aberdeen’s town centre for nearly 30 years. It’s part of the fabric of our city and it’s concerning to note that there are questions relating to its ownership.

“One of the problems with the UK’s system is that ownership of places like the Bon Accord Centre can be really opaque and, in some cases, pretty much impossible to trace.”

Mr Sabanci and some other family members and other investors have a firm called Esas Holdings, its best known asset is the Turkish low-cost airline Pegasus. Esas has confirmed its owns the Aberdeen shopping centres.

The Herald: SNP MP Kirsty Blackman.

Kirsty Blackman

Back in 2013, Bon Accord and St Nicholas were said to have been sold for £189m to a firm called F&C Reit, whose property wing was bought out last year by the Noe Group, parent of Capreon.

Details leaked from the Paradise Papers - documents from a law firm called Appleby - published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists shows Mr Sabanci other family members and investors as the beneficial owner of Scottish Retail Property GP Limited, a shareholder in both Guernsey-based entities controlling the shopping centres.

The Herald: