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US cables claim Turkish PM Erdoğan has eight Swiss bank accounts

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News | 11/29/2010 12:00:00 AM |

If Turkish-US relations are not scathed by US officials calling senior figures in Ankara 'dangerous,' their claims about the Turkish PM's assets might do the job.

If Turkish-U.S. relations manage to remain unscathed by American officials’ descriptions of senior figures in Ankara as “dangerous,” the damage might still be done by their claims about the Turkish prime minister’s personal assets.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s financial assets and the way he made “his fortune” were the subjects of two of the cables sent by the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, documents leaked as part of a release late Sunday by the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks.

“We have heard from two contacts that Erdoğan has eight accounts in Swiss banks; his explanations that his wealth comes from the wedding presents guests gave his son and that a Turkish businessman is paying the educational expenses of all four Erdoğan children in the U.S. purely altruistically are lame,” Eric Edelman, a former U.S. ambassador to Turkey, wrote in a cable sent to Washington on Dec. 30, 2004.

Edelman, who has been outspoken in his criticism of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, argued that the widespread corruption would be an important factor that could degrade Erdoğan’s ability to run the country.

In a separate cable sent in July 2004, Edelman claimed that “an anonymous source told [him] that Erdoğan and [the source] benefited directly from the award of the Tüpraş privatization to a consortium including a Russian partner.”

The Turkish Petroleum Refineries Corporation, or Tüpraş, is the state petroleum refinery. A Russian-Turkish consortium paid nearly $1.3 billion for the privatization of the country’s largest-capacity refinery in 2004.

“[The] AKP rode to power on the common citizens’ revulsion against corruption. Charges that Erdoğan amassed his fortune through kickbacks as mayor of Istanbul have never been proven, but we now hear more and more from insiders that close advisors such as private secretary Hikmet Bulduk, Mücahit Arslan and Cüneyd Zapsu are engaging in wholesale influence peddling,” Edelman said in the cable.

Another claim by the ambassador put prominent AKP officials in the spotlight; Edelman listed former ministers Abdülkadir Aksu, Kürşat Tüzmen and Istanbul provincial chairman Mehmet Müezzinoğlu as the most corrupt politicians in Turkey.

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