By Manolis Kostidis – Ankara
A huge scandal of corruption is shaking the Turkish government to its core with political analysts say Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s influence is dramatically dropping as his closest aides have allegedly been bribed. The Turkish economy is also being affected. Around 12 billion euros (30 billion Turkish liras) “vanished” due to a 9 pct drop in the main index of the Istanbul Stock Exchange.
USD 4.5 million in shoe boxes went to state-run bank chief
The details of the scandal that are hitting the spotlight are shocking. During a police raid at the home of Suleyman Arslan, the Director General of state-owned Halkbank, USD 4.5 million was seized. The notes were hidden in shoe boxes. The bank had previously been accused by the US of being used for money transferred to Iran.
Sons of Ministers acting as middle-men?
Meanwhile, the questioning of the sons of the ministers of the Interior, Finance and the Environment of the Erdogan government continues.
At the house of the son of Interior Affairs minister Muamer Guler, a large amount of cash was found (reprtedly USD 100.000) as well as a money counting machine and hand-written notes mentioning many figures.
Egemen Bagis involved?
According to Zaman newspaper, there is video tape engaging a fourth government minister in the scandal. The footage shows a government minister accepting a bribe of USD 1.5 million. Some newspapers report the minister is Egemen Bagis. Mr. Bagis said he was “assured and relaxed” on the issue. Unconfirmed reports suggest Bagis is involved in the illegal granting of Turkish citizenship to Middle East businessmen.
Sources in Ankara say Erdogan was furious at the extraordinary meeting of the AKP that tok place Wednesday evening and that he was heard shouting even from outside the conference room.
What caused the fury of the Turkish PM is that none of his aides, not even the Internal Affairs minister, knew of the police operation. The “omerta” of the state apparatus was indeed impressive.
Eleven police deputy chiefs replaced
Instead of addressing the corruption scandal itself, the government was quick to replace five deputy police chiefs in the anti-terrorism, financial crimes, organized crime and smuggling departments. Another six deputy governors were also sacked.
Meanwhile, two more prosecutors were assigned to the inquiries. Impressively enough, prosecutor Zekeriya Oz, who had revealed the Ergenekon case, was also assigned to the corruption scandal investigation.
So far inquiries concern the actions of businessman Reza Zaraf who is accused of bribery and illegally exporting gold to Iran. The amount he has transferred in the last three years reaches EUR 87 billion!
The second investigation concerns Fatih mayor (Istanbul) and the permit the municipality gave for the construction of a hotel in an area near the “Marmaray” underwater tunnel which was recently inaugurated. Specialists say in a report that the point where the hotel was constructed was not suitable to build on. The sons of the Interior and Economy ministers are also allegedly involved in the case.
The third case concerns public land that various municipal authorities had refused to grant building permits for. After bribes where paid out, the ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning gave the go-ahead. The son of the Environment minister and construction firms, along with General Secretaries of ministries, are involved in the case.
“After Gezi, illegal organization strike the government again”
Government MPs maintain the whole issue is “a plot against the Erdogan government”. They do not however respond to the accusations.
The government vice president even mentioned the “presence of illegal organization within the state mechanism which we will later reveal from whom or who they take order from.”
All the journalists in the Prime Minister’s office realized Arinc meant the battalion of Hoxa Fethullah Gulen who appears to have started a “war” with the Erdogan government due to a conflict of interest.
“This is psychological warfare against us. First the Gezi incidents and now these prosecutions” Arinc said.
“The monster Erdogan created is eating him alive”
“The government was caught unprepared; it was taken aback by the Huln group and now it seems weak against it” political analyst Rusen Cakir says.
“From today, the government has been assumed by a person who lives beyond the ocean (Gulen)” Yilmaz Ozdil writes in Hurriyet newspaper.
It is common belief that the Islamic battalion of Gulen has influence in the police, the secret service and the judiciary in Turkey. Until recently it backed the government. However, the current crisis was triggered due to the power struggle between Erdogan and Gulen.
Erdogan’s desire to become President with super-powers is a big thorn in the relation of the two men as Gulen opposes this plan.
Presidential elections in Turkey will take place in September 2014.
“The monster Erdogan created is now eating him” Ugur Nudar writes in Sozcu newspaper. He also reminds readers that the same group of judges and police officers had “trapped” the Generals and revelaed the Ergenekon and “Sledgehammer” conspiracies. “In those cases Erdogan enjoyed the situation. Now he is bothered by the circuit that is embarrassing the government” the paper says.
Scenarios are building up in Ankara of an imminent cabinet reshuffle. A lot will be determined Thursday when Erdogan meets with President Abdullah Gul.
The Turkish Prime Minister may change as much as ten ministers, including those involved in the scandals.
The situation within the government is considered fluid and everyone in Turkey believes that Erdogan was weakened in his attempt to deal a blow to the Gulen guild that had supported him for so long. In local election to be held March 2014 he will suffer losses as the imperishable profile of his government has been battered. However, members of the AKP we spoke with say as long as there is no “truce” between Erdogan and the Gulen group, the PMs dream of the Presidency will fade away.