Should relatives of politicians do business?
Republican People’s Party (CHP) Istanbul deputy Aykut Erdoğdu has claimed that names close to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan have caused the Turkish state to lose $17.5 billion. As the Treasury’s former chief inspector, Erdoğdu had headed the CHP’s “Corruption Investigation Department” during the last parliamentary term. He also holds a Certified Internal Auditor certificate.
In a press conference a couple of days ago, the CHP deputy brandished documents alleging energy sector corruption claims about the son-in-law of President Erdoğan, Berat Albayrak, and his brother-in-law Ziya İlgen.
After Energy Minister Ali Rıza Alaboyun’s denial of the claims, Erdoğdu then came forward with new documents.
According to Erdoğdu, who opened more than 100 corruption files over the course of his four-year term in parliament, which he claims were all proved with documentation, the necessary documents are actually open and accessible by everybody.
“Secret documents and information are not sent to us. But I reviewed the international agreements published in the Official Gazette. Most of the documents are from the Supreme Court of Public Accounts [Sayıştay] reports and from Trade Registry records,” he said.
I want to draw your attention to another dimension of the issue.
While Energy Minister Alaboyun was replying to Erdoğdu’s accusations, he asked the following questions: “Should our families not do business just because we’re politicians? Should they not form partnerships? Should they leave this country and settle somewhere else?”
Unfortunately, the issue is not so simple.
Companies and partnerships formed by family members of ruling party leaders are questioned everywhere in the world. Nepotism is a problem in both developed and developing countries.
Most recently, Chile’s Socialist leader Michelle Bachelet, upon her son’s involvement in a corruption scandal, removed him from duty and tasked prosecutors with investigating him. Her popularity plummeted after her son’s involvement in the scandal.
Another example is from the U.K. According to a recently published biography, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s advisors requested her son Mark Thatcher to leave the country because of his involvement in corruption scandals.
It was claimed that Mark Thatcher exploited his mother’s position and was involved in numerous instances of corruption, from the oil trade to arms sales. He left the country in 1986.
I would like to show to Alaboyun the example of Mark Thatcher, who has been living in the U.S., Switzerland, South Africa, Monaco and Gibraltar. After all, he asked, “Should they leave this country and settle somewhere else?”
An interesting practice to prevent nepotism also comes from China. In Shanghai, the families of top level municipality officials are completely banned from forming private companies.
I would like to show this latter example to Istanbul Metropolitan Mayor Kadir Topbaş, who is one of the partners of the 18 “Saray Muhallebicisis” (Saray Pudding Shops) across Istanbul.