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MURAT YETKİN > Corruption probe might grow to rock Turkish gov’t

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Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) government has had three blows in about 18 hours on Dec. 16 and 17.

The first one, in the afternoon of Dec. 16, was the rejection of the release demands of 5 elected members of the Turkish Parliament in jail on the Kurdish problem-focused Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) list by the Diyarbakır penal court. They thought the Constitutional Court ruling, which lead to the release of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy (and journalist) Mustafa Balbay, would be exemplary for their cases as well. That was also the hope of the government, which thought it could help the dialogue process with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) to have a political settlement on Turkey’s painful Kurdish problem. But things did not work as Erdoğan expected. In the evening hours, the AK Parti was shocked by the resignation of Hakan Şükür, a former striker for Galatasaray and the Turkish national football team, who turned into a popular showcase for the AK Parti by Erdoğan. In his first ever written political statement during his political career, Şükür resigned from AK Parti with strong criticism against Erdoğan, especially over the private supplementary school debate with the “Hizmet” movement of the moderate Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, who lives in the U.S. Şükür is a known Gülen sympathizer and was the second MP after İdris Bal who resigned earlier because of the same reason. Everyone read the message correctly; it was already published in full length on the web site of the news institutions close to Gülen.

The third and the biggest blow was delivered by the financial crime prosecutors on the morning of Dec. 17. A number of high-profile names were taken into custody with heavy corruption and bribery suspicions. The names included Süleyman Arslan, the general manager of a government-controlled bank, Halkbank; Reza Zarrab, an Azeri origin citizen from Iran who recently adopted Turkish citizenship; Mustafa Demir, the AK Parti Mayor of Istanbul’s Fatih district (covering the historical peninsula) and the sons of three cabinet ministers; namely the Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan, the Environment and Urbanization Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar and the most interesting, the Interior Minister Muammer Güler, who actually controls the police force. There are unconfirmed reports saying the prosecutors gave a go-ahead for the probe operation when they became suspicious that Güler might learn the tracking operations using eavesdropping and video recordings that had been going on for nearly a year.

It appears that the prosecutors had started the probe when Zarrab was questioned in 2012 because of a gold transfer to Iran through Turkey, when the cargo had been held in Turkey for some time and the U.S. administration sent a letter to the Turkish government, questioning Halkbank’s role in it.

The probe reportedly involved three files. One and the biggest is the Zarrab file, which allegedly involves a money transfer using the government-controlled bank, a sped-up citizenship process for Zarrab and his entourage with a cabinet decree, facilitating their investments in Turkey by allegedly giving bribes through close circles of some ministers. A second probe file is on real estate investment and a number of new-rich construction company owners, including Ali Ağaoğlu, were taken into custody for interrogation. A third one is to provide hotel construction rights in areas which are under legal protection because of their historical and cultural qualities along the route of the newly built Marmaray rail way connecting the European and Asian sides of Istanbul from under the Bosphorus.

Prime Minister Erdoğan declined to comment on the case “because it is an ongoing legal procedure,” but it seems the probe might grow further to shake his cabinet, as Turkey gets closer to three important elections in a row in the coming one-and-a-half years.

December/18/2013

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mr dhs

12/19/2013 10:24:56 AM

Does anyone think that the ministers had no clue what their sons were doing? If you believe that, then the ministers should resign because they appear to be clueless. If you do not believe, then the ministers should resign and admit they knew what their sons were doing. In either case, for the good of the country, they should all resign. Just my opinion though

Faruk Timuroglu

12/18/2013 11:35:24 PM

The ever-widening rift between AKP coalition partners –namely RTE and Gülen organization– became a full-frontal war. Who is going to win? is it matter, as burglars start fighting with each other after a successful robbery? What is important, both will loose and the country would be rid of them. In the meantime, President Gül and the opposition leader KK are hopping to be winners any of which would be the worst case!

Hans-Joachim "Terrorist" Zierke

12/18/2013 5:56:27 PM

Blue Dotterel, of course the Great Satan must be behind it. Or Israel? … … … But, wait a moment: Let's assume for a short moment, that all accusations turn out as being simply true, the whole thing reduces corruption and does a favour to Turkey, then, of course, it can't have been the Great Satan, or?

Hans-Joachim "Terrorist" Zierke

12/18/2013 5:49:57 PM

_If_ this investigation started in 2012 indeed, why do 99% of the papers discuss it as some fallout of the AKP vs. Gülen split? There was no such split at that time, to my knowledge at least.

Blue Dotterel

12/18/2013 1:36:40 PM

So are we witnessing the beginning of a US backed civilian/police coup in Turkey. Hardly surprising given what has transpire4d in Egypt, Syria and Iran recently.

JRC JRC

12/18/2013 12:06:44 PM

@Mark Tak. No, the question is who is worse here. The sons of 3 ministers of state have been implicated in corruption charges, pro AKP business people, ministerial assistants, a pro AKP mayor and many AKP placed civil servants have also been implicated. The heads of the police depts investigating all this have been sacked...why? For not telling those involved that arrests were imminent because they knew the investigation would be shut down. Whatever Kilicdaroglu is, he isn't accused.

Mark Tak

12/18/2013 11:17:58 AM

Ohh Please lets not get carried away here, who is better Kilicdaroglu? just left USA sold his soul to be in power, or made a deal with Ayatollah Fettullah Gulen the devil?

Muhammadh Junaid mus'ab

12/18/2013 10:48:09 AM

This should be a welcome step by all Turkish citizens and they'd so. Why the author portrays a nightmare here for the AKP senses different.

Brian Irlanda

12/18/2013 10:29:56 AM

But it seems than Minister Guler has now fired the Police Chiefs investigating him and his son as well as others. The AKP is running the country for it's own profit and enrichment. This Minister should be stripped of his power by President Gul and the police officers be allowed to complete their investigations.

JRC JRC

12/18/2013 10:08:07 AM

Celik is on record as saying the AKP want the truth. Good, then perhaps a commission can be established to investigate the wealth and income of all deputies and ministers, as well their families and friends. If he really does want the truth then surely he won't object. Let's start with Emine Erdogan. How has she come to own pharmceutical companies, hospitals, bakeries and who knows what else...in just a few years. Elsewhere it would be impossible, but in Turkey, with her husband........
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