Municipality raided on charges of fraud

Municipality raided on charges of fraud

Municipality raided on charges of fraud

Municipal workers join a march to protest a police raid in İzmir yesterday. DHA photo

More than 40 people were taken into custody yesterday when police raided the municipal headquarters in the Aegean province of İzmir in a second wave of operations launched against the municipality on corruption charges this year.

Many of the detainees were high ranking officials employed in İzmir’s public transport authority ESHOT and the İzmir Transportation Services and Machinery Industry (İZULAŞ). The two institutions jointly administer public transportation in the province.

Among those detained were also the municipality’s Deputy Secretary-General Erhan Bey, Executive Assistant Levent İşler, ESHOT Deputy Director Alim Gürsoy and Gül Şener, the head of the executive board of İZULAŞ.

İzmir Mayor Aziz Kocaoğlu from the main opposition People’s Republican Party (CHP) decided to cut short his visit to the EXPO 2020 meeting in Paris to return to the city. Mayor Kocaoğlu questioned the timing of the raids that forced him to abandon his program in Paris regarding İzmir’s candidacy for the EXPO 2020 fair.

“This is a judicial matter. It would have been good if the mayor were here. We are watching the developments as they unfold,” said İzmir Gov. Cahit Kıraç, who was also in Paris for the EXPO 2020 candidacy of the Aegean province.

Main opposition party leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said the raids were part of an effort for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to take over İzmir, a CHP stronghold, through pressure.

“I would especially like to emphasize that if an unblemished municipality is to be sought for and shown as an example, then the İzmir Municipality is it,” Kılıçdaroğlu told his party’s parliamentary group meeting yesterday.

“Some 52 tax inspectors are currently auditing the accounts of the Municipality of İzmir. Five inspectors from the Court of Auditors, two inspectors from the from civil service and nearly 20 experts have come down upon İzmir like a nightmare,” Kılıçdaroğlu said.

Meanwhile, the CHP’s İzmir deputies stormed out of Parliament’s Planning and Budget Commission in protest of the municipality raids and subsequent detentions yesterday while the annual budget for the Ministry of Culture and Tourism was being discussed.

 Over 20,000 employees working for the İzmir Municipality also went on a half–day strike to protest the raids with the backing of unions.

Authorities had conducted another sweeping operation in İzmir last May, arresting 17 people out of 34 who were transferred to court, although four were later released. The authorities identified 254 actions that could be the subject of criminal activities, after they investigated the documents seized during the first raid. Thirteen people who were detained in May continue to remain under arrest on corruption charges.

Compiled from Doğan News Agency and Anatolia News Agency stories by the Daily News staff in Istanbul.