52, including sons of Turkish ministers, detained in fraud and bribery probe

52, including sons of Turkish ministers, detained in fraud and bribery probe

52, including sons of Turkish ministers, detained in fraud and bribery probe

The son of Interior Minister Muammer Güler, Barış Güler, was also detained in the operation. DHA Photo

Istanbul and Ankara police staged morning raids Dec. 17 as part of a probe into tender fraud and bribery operation allegations, detaining 52 people, daily Hürriyet reported on its website. 

Twenty-nine of those detained, including two sons of ministers, were taken into custody by the police’s Financial Crimes Department, while another son of a minister and 22 others were detained by the police’s Organized Crime Department.
The detainees were allowed to meet their lawyers, although the suspects had not yet begun giving testimony as of late evening.

The sons of three Cabinet members, Interior Minister Muammer Güler, Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan and Environment and Urbanization Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar, are among the detained. Barış Güler, Salih Kaan Çağlayan and Abdullah Oğuz Bayraktar were detained on accusations of bribery, the report said.

Other detainees include Turkish construction tycoon Ali Ağaoğlu, Halkbank General Manager Süleyman Aslan, Azerbaijani businessman Reza Zarrab, Fatih Mayor Mustafa Demir and civil servants from the Environment Ministry and the Economy Ministry, according to Hürriyet.

The general manager of Emlak Konut, Turkey’s largest housing developer, was also called to the police department later in the day to provide information on the issue.

The police and the prosecutor’s office have yet to make an official statement about the raids.

Speaking to reporters, Istanbul Governor Hüseyin Avni Mutlu avoided giving any details about the operations. “It is not proper to make statements at the moment when the legal process is ongoing,” he said.

Environment Ministry General Manager Mehmet Ali Kahraman, Advisor to the Environment Minister Sadık Soylu, and Çağlayan’s executive assistants, Mustafa Behçet Kaynar and Onur Kaya, are among the detained. 

Meanwhile, Minister Güler has canceled his program today, which was scheduled to take place in the Bulgarian capital Sofia. He was set to attend a signature ceremony for the establishment of a border gate and common customs gate between Turkey, Greece and Bulgaria. 

Minister Çağlayan also canceled his program today following the operation. He was scheduled to attend a ceremony at 9:45 a.m. in the building of the Economy Ministry, where the Gölbaşı Education and Social Facility was set to have been transferred to the Family and Social Policies Ministry.

The operations were launched in response to allegations of rigging state tenders and bribery, Anadolu Agency reported. Hürriyet reported that the operations were the result of one year of surveillance.

The suspects are accused of accepting and facilitating bribes for some projects and getting construction permits for protected areas in exchange for money, the daily said.

Today’s simultaneous operations are part of three separate investigations, Doğan News Agency reported.

The investigations’ prosecutors are familiar names to the Turkish public. The operations are being headed by Istanbul deputy public prosecutor Zekeriya Öz, who is known for his work on the alleged deep-state Ergenekon coup plot case, and prosecutor Celal Kara. Kara was also a prosecutor in cases including the military espionage trial.

PM not informed about operation

The three prosecutors operating the three separate investigations did not inform the Istanbul Public Prosecutor about the operation and also did not enter the operation into the National Judiciary Network Information System (UYAP) system.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan avoided commenting on the morning’s corruption operation while answering reporters’ questions after a mass opening ceremony in the Central Anatolian province of Konya.

“It would not be right for me to speak before the legal process is finalized,” he said.

Erdoğan was not informed about the operations and learnt about it when the detainments started, daily Hürriyet reported, quoting an unnamed source from Ankara.

Halkbank came to the agenda in April when it denied the claims that it was carrying out any operations that could break sanctions on Iran. 

Halkbank issued an official statement on April 21 to deny that it was in breach of sanctions imposed by the United States on Iran, after local media recently reported some 47 deputies in the U.S. Senate had asked for sanctions on Halkbank. 

The Turkish press had stated that the U.S. Senate had started a campaign against Turkey, accusing it of raising its trade volume with Iran despite the U.S.-imposed sanctions on Iran due to its nuclear program. The reports said the campaign was led by the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC, along with the support of 47 deputies, who sent a letter to both the Secretary of State John Kerry and the Treasury Secretary Jack Lew recommending sanctions on Halkbank for its operations transferring gold to Iran.

Turkey, Iran’s biggest natural gas customer, has been paying Iran for energy imports in Turkish Liras, as sanctions prevent it from paying in dollars or euros.