Economy minister sells apartments in silhouette-spoiling Istanbul towers

Economy minister sells apartments in silhouette-spoiling Istanbul towers

Economy minister sells apartments in silhouette-spoiling Istanbul towers

The 37, 32 and 27 storey buildings in the Zeytinburnu district are clearly visible in the panorama behind the Süleymaniye Mosque on the city's historic peninsula.

Turkey’s economy minister recently sold two apartments in a controversial three-tower housing project that raised eyebrows for spoiling Istanbul’s historical silhouette and sparked reaction from outgoing Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. 

Nihat Zeybekci, who took the economy ministry helm in December 2013, used to own two apartments in one of the skyscrapers in the project called Onaltıdokuz (16:9), but sold the apartments after a court ruling that ordered the destruction of towers’ top floors, Economy Ministry sources told daily Hürriyet.

Zeybekci denied wrongdoing in a statement to Hürriyet, stressing that he was not even a member of Parliament when he bought the apartments for 1.6 million Turkish Liras in 2011 in order to use them as an office.

“After the silhouette debate started and our prime minister put the subject on the agenda, I stopped going to the place. It was over for me then. I sold it two-three months ago. I made a financial loss, considering the change in dollar exchange rate,” the minister said, adding that he had confirmed that the project received all necessary permissions and licences from the authorities before purchasing it.

The minister, who used to reside in southwestern province of Denizli before becoming minister in December 2013, used the two flats as a home office when he had business meetings in Istanbul, the ministry sources said. 

Pictures of the 37-, 32- and 27-story residences built near the Marmara coast in the Zeytinburnu district rising behind the minarets of the Süleymaniye Mosque caused a public outcry when they were published by daily Radikal in 2011. 

Despite the controversy, the construction was completed and the apartments were sold. 

In December, an Istanbul court ruled that the top floors of the three massive skyscrapers should be trimmed; last week, a lawyer revealed that the Council of State had upheld the ruling despite the objections of the owner of the project, Turkish contractor Astay İnşaat.

Sources said the minister sold the flats two weeks before lawyer Cihat Gökdemir announced the Council of State decision, fearing further loss in the value of the flats.

In April 2013, Erdoğan added his voice to the criticism, publicly declaring his anger at the owners of the constructions for not accepting his suggestion to trim the buildings. 

Zeybekci had bought the apartments, which are situated on 32th floor of the tower, back on Aug. 3, 2012, daily Cumhuriyet claimed Aug. 26.

The block in which the minister has flats houses 1+1, 2+1 and 3+1 apartment types, and the cheapest flat in the project was sold for 1.3 million Turkish Liras last year, it said.

Zeybekci is one of the most prominent businessmen in Denizli, where he owns a textile company, Turkuaz Tekstil, providing goods to domestic and international markets.

After taking part and leading a number of prominent local business organizations in Denizli, Zeybekci served as the mayor of the province between the years of 2004 and 2011, representing the Justice and Development Party (AKP).