Four scenarios for the second wave of the corruption probe
An Istanbul Court in charge of crimes that fall into Article 10 of the anti-terror law ruled on Dec. 25, 2013 to freeze all the assets of seven businessmen and two legal entities; with the execution of this decision Monday, Jan. 5, a new era has begun in the corruption investigation which was launched on Dec. 17, 2013.
We can regard the development on Monday as the most significant turn in the Dec. 17 process after the first wave of arrests and then the exclusion of four ministers from the Cabinet.
Thus, the uncertainty experienced and the debates that erupted on whether or not judicial decisions made within the framework of the Dec. 17 operation were executed have at least finalized within the scope of this certain court’s decision.
Among the list of seven people who were imposed assets injunction are Head of the Executive Board of Zirve Holding Cemal Kalyoncu and his brother Ömer Faruk Kalyoncu, who recently bought one of the major media groups Turkuvaz (Sabah-ATV) from Ahmet Çalık. One of the legal entities that were imposed assets injunction on Monday was Zirve Holding.
It is not yet clear at this stage whether the court decision for asset injunction has any consequences on the handover of the ownership of Turkuvaz from Çalık to Zirve Holding. The Competition Board, on the date Dec. 20, 2013, in other words, exactly three days after the start of the first wave of arrests on Dec. 17, had announced its approval of the handing over of the shares of Çalık in Turkuvaz to Zirve Holding.
The fact that Zirve Holding is the subject of such a precaution practice after the Competition Board’s approval points out that the sale of Turkuvaz to this holding is also among those matters that the prosecutor is investigating.
The Kalyoncu brothers also own a construction company with their last name. One of the most important contracts this company has undertaken recently is the partnership of the consortium that won the new airport project for Istanbul, worth about 10 billion euros. Likewise, Cengiz İnşaat (Cengiz Construction) is also a major partner of the same consortium. An assets injunction was also imposed Monday on Mehmet Cengiz, the owner of Cengiz İnşaat.
No matter how you look at it, despite all the arguments and the uproar, it shows the Dec. 17 investigation process has gone one step forward even though the injunction decision was executed with a 12- day delay.
As is known, there is another list in addition to the seven-person injunction list. This is a 41-person list which the prosecutor who was removed from the case Muammer Akkaş had sent to the police with detention demands. This list was stopped with the government’s last minute intervention by changing the legal law enforcement regulation.
These seven people whose assets were frozen Monday were at the same time also in this second list of 41 people. However, the second list contains the names of those people as suspects, those who make a significant portion of those contractors who undertook major infrastructure projects the government started recently.
After Akkaş was removed from the file, the newly appointed five prosecutors are re-evaluating the evidence present in the file about these contractors. Hence, the answer to the question of what is the future of the names in that 41-people list depends on the final opinion of the new prosecutors who have started reading the file from the beginning.
Theoretically, one of the options is the predecessors of the prosecutor will find the evidence in the file prepared by Akkaş serious enough, repeat the same charges and process the detention decision.
A second option is the prosecutors will find the evidence serious but without resort to detention, would subpoena the suspects for their statements.
Third option is deciding the evidence was weak and declaring to proceed no further, in other words close the file.
Meanwhile, since the file is reviewed by specially authorized courts (anti-terror), a potential decision of non-jurisdiction is the fourth option. “Specially authorized prosecutors” may just as well send the file to prosecutors in charge of “general crimes.”
Whatever the decision is, it is possible to say the second wave on Dec. 25 has reached a dimension that would affect the government’s practices in the field of major infrastructure projects. As a matter of fact, the prime minister sees the investigation as a move directly targeting the projects of the government.
However, even if he thinks so, it is obvious that by declaring he believes in the innocence of these businessmen and conducting a loud-voiced campaign creates a distinct pressure on the prosecutors reviewing the file.
Sedat Ergin is a columnist for daily Hürriyet in which this piece was published on Jan 7. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.