By Manolis Kostidis – Ankara
A political “hurricane” has struck Turkey as Turkish police arrested 49 people, amongst them three sons of government MPs, prominent businessmen, a mayor and the governor of state bank Halkbank.
The involvement of ministers and names within the inner circle of the Justice & Development Party (AKP) is embarrassing for Erdogan. Suspicions are being voiced that perhaps the police operation is linked to the government’s war with the Islamic group led by Fethullah Gulen. The main index of the Istanbul Stock Exchange collapsed Tuesday, when it dropped 5.2 pct.
The ministers whose offspring are involved in the corruption scandal are the following: Finance Minister Zafer Caglayan, Interior minister Muamer Guler and Environment minister Erdogan Bairaktar. Baris Guler, Salih Calayan and Abdullah Bairaktar are being interrogated by authorities.
The Mayor of Fatih – considered a stronghold of Istanbul islamists – is also held and being questioned. The General Secretary of the Environment ministry is also amongst those questioned.
AKP spokesman Husein Celik stated “we are all equal before justice and let’s not forget the presumption of innocence”.
Corruption & money laundering
The people held are being accused of taking bribes from constructors bidding for major public works as well as for building permits. Furthermore, the arrests relate to money laundering, illegal granting of citizenship and illegal trade of gold. Turkish police is thought to have watched the defendants for one year.
Erdogan didn’t know
According to reliable sources, Recep Tayyip Erdogan didn’t know anything about the police operation. This makes sense as even the son of the minister of the Interior was arrested without being aware of the police actions! It is evident that police authorities acted without informing the minister.
Another impressive fact is that that the police operation begun a few days after the crisis in the relations of the Fethullah Gulen guild and the Erdogan government as well as the resignation yesterday of governing party MP Hakan Sukur who said he was resigning due to prosecutions carried out by the government against the Gulen group. It is feared that as many as 20 MPs could follow suit.
It is common knowledge in Turkey that the police operation is the answer of the Gulen guild to the plans of the Erdogan administration that is trying to contain their actions.
In the police and the judiciary there are many Gulen guild members in key positions. The same people had gathered evidence and had even raided the naval base in Gulzuk in order to reveal the action of Ergenekon and the “Sledgehammer” conspiracy. Erdogan and Gulen were allies then. It seems now that the “Hoxa” is sending a message from the US to the Turkish government and showing Erdogan his power and what could be revealed if he continues fighting him.
Fifteeen days ago, a newspaper close to Gulen revealed a secret document of the Turkish National Security Council dated 2004 which showed the Turkish Prime Minister had acted against the Order of Gulen.
Erdogan: Turkey is no “Banana” Republic
Erdogan reacted strongly: “Turkey is not a Banana Republic. Nobody can change our course. Turkey is not a country where surgical operations will take place. Our government will not allow it. Those who trust themselves should take part in the 30th of May local elections and see the people’s answer” he said.
The businessmen being questioned
Three prominent contractors are amongst those arrested by Turkish police. All three are names that have benefited from the Erdogan government as they were virtually unknowns before 2002.
Ali Agaoglu(central photo) is considered the 8th wealthiest man in Turkey according to Forbes with a fortune of USD 2.7 billion. 59-year old Agaoglu has built thousands of flats since Erdogan took office. In Turkey he is famous for his collection of luxury cars and the advertisements he stars in. Recently, his 18-year old daughter Sena bought a Bentley as a present for getting her driving license.
Emrullah Turanli(photo) is President of construction group Tasyapi, established in 1985. In recent years the group started investing in the energy sector, shopping center manangement and tourism. The company is involved in projects in Dubai and Turkmenistan. Up until 2007 it was awarded many public works until relations with the AKP government turned sour.
Osman Agza is chairman of construction group Yorum. The group specializes in the construction of shopping centers throughout the country. In recent years it entered residential construction too.