ISTANBUL, April 5 (Reuters) – Koza Ltd, whose founder had to abandon his Turkish gold assets, is expanding its operations in Britain with a $1 million programme to drill for gold in Ayrshire, Scotland, together with a venture partner, the company said on Thursday.

Founder Akin Ipek built a multi-billion-dollar fortune in Turkey based on gold mining, but left the country in 2015 after relations between the government and followers of U.S.-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen soured.

He has since been seeking to develop assets in the United Kingdom and in February Koza Ltd, a British subsidiary of Turkish miner Koza Altin, announced a joint venture with Australia’s Walkabout Resources to explore for gold and other metals at Slieve Gallon in Northern Ireland.

With a separate venture partner, GreenOre Gold Plc, Koza Ltd said it would carry out 4,000 metres of drilling for gold in Ayrshire. Koza Ltd has the option to acquire 80 percent of the joint venture for a $1.95 million spend.

Koza Ltd and GreenOre, which also has a project in Aberdeenshire in Scotland, entered into a joint venture agreement in 2017 on GreenOre’s wholly owned Ayrshire project, in southwest Scotland, and began drilling in the same year.

The plan now is to work on establishing the extent of the reserve after the 2017 drilling intersected “significant gold grades”, Koza Ltd said.

The Istanbul-listed parent of Koza Ltd is in a legal battle to eject Ipek and get the subsidiary’s assets, drained by protracted litigation, back under its control.

Koza Altin is one of hundreds of companies seized by the Turkish authorities and is now managed by the Savings Deposit Insurance Fund. It was placed in receivership in October 2015 for alleged links to Gulen.

(Reporting by Barbara Lewis and Dasha Afanasieva; Editing by Dale Hudson)

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