BY HARUT SASSOUNIAN
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan came to power 14 years ago as a devout Muslim, announcing that he intended to eliminate corruption from Turkish politics.
As he consolidated his authority and moved from Prime Minister to an autocratic President, he forgot his promises and engaged in the very corrupt policies which he had condemned. As British historian Lord Acton has said… “power tends to corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely!”
This week, I wish to cover Erdogan’s fourth corruption scandal, starting by summing up the first three involving him and his family.
The first case is regarding Erdogan receiving an oil tanker worth $25 million as a gift from Mubariz Mansimov, an Azeri billionaire, in 2008. At Erdogan’s request, Mansimov later became a Turkish citizen and changed his last name to Gurbanoglu.
The second case occurred in December 2013, when Erdogan and four of his Ministers were implicated in a multi-million dollar corruption probe. Faced with litigation, all four Ministers resigned. However, Erdogan interfered in the trial, dismissing the lawsuit and firing the prosecutors and policemen who had exposed his Ministers’ corrupt practices! The private phone conversations between Erdogan and his son Bilal had been recorded, revealing their discussions on how to hide the hundreds of millions of dollars in cash they had received mysteriously!
The third case of corruption is the ongoing trial in New York City regarding a billion-dollar scheme to smuggle gold for oil from Turkey to Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions on Iran. Reza Zarrab, a Turkish-Iranian gold dealer pleaded guilty last week to all seven charges, exposing the participation of a Turkish banker, Mehmet Hakan Atilla, and seven other defendants, including Turkish Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan, who was accused of receiving millions of dollars in bribes from Zarrab in exchange for arranging the illegal scheme. Zarrab also implicated Pres. Erdogan for having authorized the illegal gold for oil trade.
The fourth and latest corruption scheme involves members of Erdogan’s family who reportedly transferred $15 million to an off-shore company called Bellway Limited in the tax haven of Isle of Man, United Kingdom, in December 2011 and January 2012. This accusation was made by Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu. The Isle of Man is a self-governing British Crown dependency in the Irish Sea between England and Ireland.
Party Chairman Kılıcdaroglu recently announced that a company was established on August 1, 2011 on the Isle of Man with a founding capital of 1 British pound. He revealed the bank statements and copies of the $15 million wire transfers to the Bellway Limited company:
— On December 15, 2011, Erdogan’s brother-in-law Ziya İlgen transferred $2.5 million, and on Dec. 26, 2011, $1.25 million.
— On December 15, 2011, Erdogan’s brother Mustafa transferred $2.5 million, and on Dec. 26, 2011, $1.25 million.
— On December 27, 2011, Erdogan’s father-in-law Osman Ketenci transferred $1.25 million, and on Dec. 28, 2011, $1 million.
— On December 27, 2011, Erdogan’s former executive assistant Mustafa Gündogan transferred $1.25 million, and on Dec. 28, 2011, $250,000.
— On December 29, 2011, Erdogan’s son Ahmet Burak Erdogan transferred $1.45 million, and on January 4, 2012, $2.3 million.
Kilicdaroglu filed a parliamentary motion requesting an investigation of the transfers. However, the majority dominated by Erdogan’s AK Party voted down the measure. When Kilicdaroglu was addressing the Parliament regarding the allegations against Erdogan, the State TV cut off the live transmission!
Turkish prosecutors announced last week that they are investigating the charges against Erdogan. However, as is widely known, no judge would dare to rule that Erdogan is guilty of any crimes, given the fact that many judges are dismissed or jailed for not complying with the Turkish President’s wishes.
As expected, Erdogan was furious at the allegations against his family. He declared that he would resign from his post if it is proven that he has a bank account in a foreign country. Ahmet Ozel, a lawyer for Pres. Erdogan stated that the bank documents publicized by Kilicdaroglu were “fake” and described the allegations as “lies.” Erdogan threatened that Kilicdaroglu “would pay a price,” and filed a lawsuit against him seeking $500,000 for defamation!
These scandals may have an adverse effect on Pres. Erdogan’s re-election in 2019, assuming that he would permit a fair election. We hope that Pres. Erdogan remains in office as he persists to undermine Turkey’s reputation worldwide!