Turkish PM refutes claims of accounts in Swiss banks
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan addresses his supporters during a rally in Mersin. AA PhotoPrime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan once again targeted both the main opposition and the Fethullah Gülen movement at an election rally, accusing them of conducting a "smear campaign" against himwhile vehemently denying claims he has secret Swiss bank accounts.
“Shamelessly and insolently, they are making up incredible lies about the prime minister,” said Erdoğan, talking about himself in the third person. “Just as they did for my brother Zafer [Çağlayan] and my other brothers, they are also making the same things up about us.” He was speaking on March 13 in the Mediterranean province of Mersin, accompanied by former Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan.
Çağlayan is among four former members of the Cabinet whose names have been involved in a massive corruption probe that was launched Dec. 17, 2013. In addition to Çağlayan, former EU Minister Egemen Bağış and former Interior Minister Muammer Güler have been subject to summaries of proceedings due to corruption and bribery allegations. A summary of proceedings about former Environment and Urban Planning Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar has also been drafted, on claims that Turkey’s state-run housing agency, the Housing Development Administration (TOKİ), working under the Prime Ministry, was involved in the corruption allegations. Bayraktar was the former head of the body.
“We supposedly took away millions. That’s what Kılıçdaroğlu says,” Erdoğan said, referring to main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.
“They say I have 13 bank accounts in Switzerland,” he said, referring to claims voiced by the CHP head. “Hey Kılıçdaroğlu, if you have the slightest personality and character and if your temperament is decent, then I am asking you: ‘Where are those accounts?’ Find those accounts and bring them. Let’s collect the money together.”
The claims about Erdoğan’s secret bank accounts in Switzerland first appeared on the agenda in 2010. However, with the huge graft probe involving government figures, their relatives, and business people close to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) that went public in mid-December, these claims have become the subject of greater speculation.
In a cable sent to Washington on Dec. 30, 2004 and leaked by the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks in November 2010, former U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Eric Edelman wrote that there were rumors that Erdoğan had eight Swiss bank accounts.
“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,” he wrote in the cable.
Back then, Edelman, who has since been outspoken in his criticism of 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, he 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.” Edelman was referring to the Turkish Petroleum Refineries Co. (TÜPRAŞ), which was once owned by the state before being privatized.
Opposition 'terrorizing streets'
Speaking in Mersin, Erdoğan also accused his opponents - including politicians, the media and business people - of trying to stir up chaos ahead of key local elections later this month.
"They are trying to get results by provoking and terrorizing the streets," Erdoğan he, one the day after clashes erupted in Turkey and tens of thousands took to streets to mourn 15-year-old Berlin Elvan, who died from injuries suffered in the Gezi protests last year.
Erdoğan said demonstrators had destroyed the offices of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Istanbul and he lashed out at what he called "ugly attempts" to manipulate March 30 elections.
"You were supposed to be democrats, you were supposed to be pro-freedoms," Erdoğan said, referring to those who destroyed the party offices.
"They are charlatans, they are not honest. They have nothing to do with democracy. They do not believe in the ballot box," he added.
The March elections will be a key test of popularity for Erdoğan, who is grappling with the huge corruption scandal.