Shoebox money not to be returned to Halkbank’s ex-manager
Toygun Atilla - ISTANBUL
Former Halkbank head Süleyman Arslan.The money found in shoeboxes at the home of Halkbank's ex-general manager during a police raid late last year will be sent to the Istanbul Governorate, a prosecutor has ruled.
Ekrem Aydıner, a prosecutor from the anti-terror and organized crime unit of Istanbul Chief Prosecutor's Office, had decided not to proceed against 53 graft suspects, including sons of two former ministers, closing the final part of a legal scandal that has been dogging President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's inner circle since late 2013.
Although Aydıner also dropped graft charges against Halkbank's ex-general manager Süleyman Arslan, he announced that the investigation into allegations that the banker collected donations illegally will continue.
The illegal fundraising charge is based on the fact that $4.5 million was found stashed in shoeboxes at Arslan's home during a raid on Dec. 17, but it carries much lighter potential sentences than the other graft accusations.
Arslan denied any wrongdoing and then-Prime Minister Erdoğan even claimed all of the cash was being held as “charity money.”
“What I understand about corruption is this: Are the state’s coffers being robbed or not? The money found in the shoebox was not money that has been taken or robbed from Halkbank,” Erdoğan had said in an interview broadcast on Feb. 10.
The prosecution concluded that the money cannot be returned to Arslan as illegal fundraising constitutes an administrative crime. The money will instead be sent to the Governorate of Istanbul.
Headlines were made shortly after the "shoebox scandal" broke when police detained a woman in the western province of Manisa on Dec. 29, 2013, after she protested Erdoğan by brandishing a shoebox during a visit of the then-prime minister, in reference to the corruption probe.
Similarly, an unemployed man was briefly detained when he shouted the S-word in protest as Interior Minister Efkan Ala attended an event in the Central Anatolian province of Niğde on Feb. 23 this year.