Graft commission to vote on four former ministers

Graft commission to vote on four former ministers

Graft commission to vote on four former ministers A parliamentary inquiry commission will vote Dec. 22 on whether to send the four former ministers involved in Turkey's Dec. 17 and 25 corruption probe to the Supreme Council. 

Hakkı Köylü, the head of the commission from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), said after a meeting Dec. 18 that the voting on Zafer Çağlayan, Muammer Güler, Egemen Bağış and Erdoğan Bayraktar would be “open,” meaning the votes of each member would be made public. 

The commission itself will write a report on the issue, he said, without giving an exact deadline. 

The judicial process on the claims has already expired and charges against the ministers have been dropped, with the commission remaining as the sole active process. 

Last year on Dec. 17, Istanbul prosecutors launched the corruption investigation, which also embroiled a number of prominent officials and Reza Zarrab, an Iranian-origin businessman who allegedly paid bribes to ministers for several years. 

Turkey’s media organizations were banned from reporting on the parliamentary commission in a Nov. 25 ruling, but the judge later said the ban only applied to publishing all speeches in the commission “quote by quote,” which is also banned by parliamentary regulations. The judge said they had not banned “commenting” on the commission and its works.

A demand by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) to drop Köylü from the commission was refused by Parliamentary Speaker Cemil Çiçek earlier this month. 

All four parties in Parliament are represented on the commission according to the proportionate number of seats they hold in the legislature. The AKP therefore holds a majority on the 15-member commission with nine seats, while the CHP holds four seats and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) each hold one seat. 

Opposition parties have raised concerns over the transparency of the commission so far. Pervin Buldan of the HDP had said the party had withdrawn from the commission after the media ban. 

All four ministers testified to the commission. 

Former Interior Minister Güler admitted that he gave a reference to Zarrab for a bank in China, but denied allegations that he accepted bribes from him. Lawmakers questioned the increase in Güler’s assets, as well as claims that he used his authority as the interior minister to provide security to Zarrab and help his relatives acquire Turkish citizenship.

Former Economy Minister Çağlayan told the commission that a large bank transaction from Zarrab to his brother - and then subsequently to his own account - was connected to his brother’s debt from the transfer of a company.

Former Environment and Urbanization Minister Bayraktar defended himself against the graft probe allegations that led to his resignation, while also saying the new allegations against him in the inquiry commission were "baseless."

Former EU Minister Bağış said the wiretap recordings in the corruption case were "montages" made from various speeches.

The government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accuse the Gülen movement of U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen of organizing a plot to overthrow them, beginning with the Dec. 17 probes.