Graft probe spills over with harbor raid amid new police purge

Graft probe spills over with harbor raid amid new police purge

İZMİR - Doğan News Agency
Graft probe spills over with harbor raid amid new police purge

High-ranking managers and officials from the İzmir Port have been detained as part of a graft operation. AA Photo

Turkey’s government has lowered the boom on its biggest response yet to the corruption probe that has reached the upper echelons of the administration, relocating 600 police officers in a massive purge.

Some 350 officers were removed from their posts at the Ankara Police Department, while 250 others were brought in from elsewhere to the branch.

Many see the probes and counter-purges as part of a covert battle between the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the followers of Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) launched an investigation yesterday into newly appointed Istanbul Police Chief Selami Altınok, who replaced Hüseyin Çapkın after the latter was reassigned as part of the probe.

Elsewhere, three senior İzmir officers were dismissed after launching fraud investigations into transactions at commercial harbors operated by the Turkish State Railways (TCDD) in which 25 people were detained.

The suspects, including eight TCDD officials, were taken into custody on charges of bribery, corruption, conspiring to rig tenders and leaking information about tenders as part of a fraud investigation launched by the İzmir Public Prosecutor.

They included senior officials such as the director of the İzmir port and his two deputies, while reports also claimed that an arrest warrant had been issued for the brother-in-law of former Transport and Urban Planning Minister Binali Yıldırım, who works in the company of a CEO taken into custody during the raids.

The tit-for-tat response came a few hours after the raids as a deputy police chief and two department chiefs at the İzmir Police Department, who were in charge of the harbor investigations, were dismissed.

Deputy Police Chief Mehmet Ali Şefik, the deputy chief of the organized crime unit, Taner Aydın, and chief of narcotics department, Behzat Tuzcu, were all dismissed upon a decision that came in the afternoon hours of Jan. 7.

As the deputy chief of Izmir’s police force, Şevik was also in charge of the financial crimes unit.

'Timing is meaningful,' implicated ex-minister says

Meanwhile, Yıldırım said he had no idea about the planned detention of his brother-in-law in his first remarks following the raids.

Yıldırım was replaced in the big recent Cabinet reshuffle after he announced that he would run as the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) İzmir mayoral candidate in the upcoming local elections, along with four other ministers implicated in the corruption scandal.

The former minister, who was visiting members of chambers of trade as part of his campaign for İzmir Mayoralty, claimed that the investigation had been launched three years ago, although most reports in the Turkish media said it started a year ago with surveillance operations that lasted six months.

“According to the information that we have been able gather, the operation was launched following a complaint filed at the beginning of 2011 on the cargo handling workers. If raids are carried out three years after an investigation was launched, the timing is meaningful,” Yıldırım said, suggesting that it aimed to affect his own mayoralty bid. 

“At the very least, this is aimed at sabotaging the election process and creating misperceptions. But we are clean in everything we have done,” he added. 

The new raids and ensuing police purges come as the government is engulfed in a vast scandal with the sons of two ex-ministers and the chief executive of state-owned Halkbank still being held in custody.

The fighting via probes and dismissals highlights the deepening conflict between the AKP and the Gülen movement, the followers of which are said to hold key positions inside the secret services, the police and the judiciary, and who are believed to be behind the investigation.

They also come after a letter sent by Gülen to Turkish President Abdullah Gül was made public. In the letter, the influential scholar specifically deplored the dismissal of “public workers who had no ties to the recent corruption.” He also denied claims that he had influenced state activities or given directives to civil servants, in an apparent response to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s claims about the existence of a “parallel state.”