A whistleblower’s graft tale: Losing faith in Fatih

A whistleblower’s graft tale: Losing faith in Fatih

Azat Yalçın is a young urban planner working on his Ph.D. at Yıldız Technical University. He also happens to be the whistleblower at Fatih Municipality, one of the three pillars of the arrests on Dec. 17.

Azat started working for the municipality in July 2010. He quickly gained the trust of key high-level officials by doing well in his job, and mayor Mustafa Demir, who was detained on Dec. 17, specifically asked Azat to notify him of any “illegalities” in March 2011.

It seems that Azat took his new duty a bit too seriously. He stumbled upon serious graft, which he duly reported to the mayor and other top municipality authorities. He was first told to mind his own business, then reprimanded with low-level jobs, and finally fired in January 2013. 

Azat revealed one of the incidents he encountered when he spoke to the press in August. He had found out that several contracts had been awarded to the wife of Fatih Municipality’s transportation director, in a clear violation of government auction law. However, the papers did not mention at the time that Mrs. Director had failed to deliver several projects she had been paid for. Some of the projects were even within the Istanbul Municipality’s jurisdiction to begin with.

It turns out that what the press got hold of in August was just the tip of the iceberg. It wasn’t long before Azat noticed that the same firms were winning all the auctions at the municipality. He found out that the competing bids were being leaked to these firms. But the real ploy started after the auctions. Unit prices in the winning bids would be changed by replacing all the original documents.

That wasn’t even half of it. Azat found out about land parcels designated as parks being turned into garages - after all, the Turkish word for garage is autopark! He witnessed historic buildings being razed to make room for apartments and hotels without the Council of Monuments being notified. These have appeared in the press

You won’t believe it, but Azat even saw a bank receipt for a wire transfer from a contractor to a deputy mayor. I guess contractor Selim Edes was wrong when he shouted at Emlakbank General Manager Engin Civan at court nearly two decades ago: “Would bribes have documents, you pimp?”

To make a long story short, Azat went to the Fatih district attorney (D.A.) responsible for crimes of civil servants with these and much more on July 15. He was smart enough to document everything that he found out about, and so his petition was supported by a huge folder of evidence. He even had photos of contractors meeting up with a deputy mayor in a secluded place.

For a while, nothing happened. He paid a visit to the D.A. every now and then to check up on his case. He was scolded each time and kicked out. But when he dropped by for the final time one and a half months ago, the D.A. was surprisingly much more sympathetic. He explained to Azat that gathering evidence took time. 

So Azat patiently waited. His wait was finally over this week. The rest is history.