Two prominent businessmen testify as part of graft probes
Ahmet Nazif Zorlu is reportedly accused of irregularities and breaches of the law regarding the recent construction of the colossal Zorlu Center on Istanbul’s European side.Two prominent businessmen involved in the corruption probes gave their testimonies to prosecutors on Feb. 11, after weeks of speculation about whether or not they would testify.
Cemal Kalyoncu, board chairman of the construction company Kalyon, gave his testimony as part of the second graft investigation, which was spectacularly revealed after its initial prosecutor was removed from the case on Dec. 25. Documents obtained by the press show that Kalyoncu was among 41 suspects due to be detained, according to the arrest orders given by the case’s first prosecutor Muammer Akkaş.
Other suspects included the executives of construction companies which were part of the consortium that won the lucrative contract to build Istanbul’s third airport. After the controversial reassignment of Akkaş on Dec. 25, four anti-terror prosecutors were appointed to replace him.
Ahmet Nazif Zorlu, the chairman of Zorlu Holding, was also present at Istanbul’s Çağlayan Courthouse to testify as part of the Dec. 17 probe. Zorlu had been summoned by Prosecutor Mehmet Yüzgeç, who was also removed from his case. Yüzgeç was reassigned last week along with the prosecutor who launched the initial investigation, Celal Kara, in a yet another highly-controversial internal reshuffle that has raised serious concerns about the government’s intervention in the massive probes.
Zorlu is accused of irregularities and breaches of the law regarding the recent construction of the colossal Zorlu Center on Istanbul’s European side.
The prosecutor conducting the probe, Ekrem Aydıner, who was appointed to the case following the removal of the first prosecutors, said last week that he would rewrite the indictments from scratch.
Summer house controversy
Meanwhile, Mustafa Latif Topbaş, another businessman charged in the second graft probe, rejected claims that his summer houses in the Zeytineli village near İzmir’s Aegean coast, which are regularly visited by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, were built illegally.
“I bought the terrain in question with seven other friends 34 years ago. The area was declared an archeological site 15 years ago and we objected to this, in the same way as our neighbors in the village,” Topbaş said in a written statement.
He also rejected allegations that the summer houses were owned by Erdoğan. “I have a 35-year friendship with Erdoğan. It dates back before he started doing politics. But after he became prime minister, he visited Zeytineli only three times due to his intense working schedule,” Topbaş said.
Throughout the recent political crisis, Erdoğan has accused the Islamic scholar Fetullah Gülen’s movement of orchestrating the probes in order to damage the government, denouncing an alleged “parallel state” within the police and the judiciary.