A new, large case of corruption emerges in Turkey

Another massive corruption case is reportedly surfaced, this time on rapid train project.

Here are the details:
A corruption investigation into allegations concerning the high-speed train (YHT) tenders by the Turkish State Railways (TCDD) in which a number of company officials and businessmen were suspects has been uncovered due to a government amendment of the regulation on judicial law enforcers requiring police officers to report to their superiors of all investigations.

The police officers, who were assigned by the Ankara prosecutor Hakan Büyükabacı in this investigation, had to share the confidential information concerning the allegations on the suspects of “establishing and administering a crime network, conspiring to rig bids on tenders and bribery” to their superiors.

Among the suspects in the investigation was the TCDD General Manager Süleyman Karaman and Mehmet Cengiz, the owner of the construction company Cengiz İnşaat, a part of the consortium that won the tender of the new airport in İstanbul.

Today’s Zaman has learnt from the sources close to the investigation that the investigation, the surveillance phase of which was about to be completed, would be surreptitiously closed by detaching Ankara assistant Attorney General Harun Kodalak, who is known to be the prosecutor who closed the Deniz Feneri corruption case.

Ankara prosecutor’s office had kicked off an investigation in the tenders of the YHT projects and started surveillance of all the tenders conducted by the first and second regional directorates of the TCDD covering an era of four years. Depending on the statements of the complainants and the material evidence, the prosecution has exposed that some five to 10 companies that took part in the construction tenders made collusive agreements among them. Besides, these companies solicited advantageous position among the rival bidders through their connections in the TCDD, creating conditions that don’t abide by the rules of objective and free competition as sought in the public tenders, the investigation found.

It was also claimed that the investigation file included accusations on a number of top-ranking officials of the TCDD of receiving bribes in return for favors of the winning companies.

According to the sources, the surveillance found that TCDD YHT Regional Director Erol Tuna Aşkın was entertained by the construction company Topaktaş, which won a tender from the TCDD, in a massage saloon operated by Zeliha Tüfekçi, on whom a legal action had been proceed for prostitution. Also, the case included allegations on some workers of receiving unfair advantage in the form of “gift vouchers” from winner companies in occasional days like the New Year or religious holidays.

The surveillance found that the projects of railway construction and landscape were always granted to certain companies in the last four years. Another serious assertion in the investigation file claims that TCDD General Manager granted subcontracts in some tenders that the company organized to a woman architect with whom he has a love affair.

The surveillance has been conducted with wiretappings of the mobile lines of the suspects, intelligence provisions from sources close to these tenders and from open sources.


The investigation also clamps down on the speculations that the wedding expenses of Süleyman Karaman’s daughter, even the cost of the house that she rented in the UK, were met by a construction company.

It was learnt that the prosecution has put under microscope all the tenders between Jan. 1, 2010 and Nov. 7, 2012 organized by the TCDD General Directorate and all of its regional and branch offices.

A non-conformity has been detected in a tender about the purchase of two ferries with the capacity of carrying 50 wagons to be used by the Lake Van ferry Directorate (Tatvan-Van) and two other tenders on pier restoration and maintenance extension as part of the graft probe. It was discovered that while a case on cancellation of a tender, which had been earlier given to a company with TL 120 million, was still going on, Turkish State Railways (TCDD) General Director Süleyman Karaman helped the company continue with the tender when the company directors donated TL 1 million to TCDD Foundation.

Putting the TCDD tenders under the scope; the police, conducting the recent graft probe, detected that Hasan Dağcı, one of partners of Belen Construction Company, and Cengiz Construction Firm’s Board Chairman Mehmet Cengiz gave some works to subcontractor firms after an order from TCDD General Director Karaman at the second stage of the Ankara-İstanbul high-speed train line construction project, which has been conducted by the Cengiz-IC İçtaş-Belen Joint Venture and shared the unearned income obtained from this.

Mehmet Cengiz, who is among suspects in the recent graft investigation, is the owner of Cengiz Construction Firm who made his name as a member of consortium that won the tender of third airport in İstanbul. Cengiz, who is former chairman of Çaykur Rizespor Football club, was also the contractor of the Black Sea Highway, for which former Minister of Public Works and Settlement Yaşar Topçu was tried at the Supreme Court and sentenced to 14 months in jail for corrupt administration of the highway’s construction.

The police also detected non-conformities in the reopening of Yanıklar Stone Quarry near Sapanca Lake in Kocaeli, which was shut down 40 years ago, to be used during Ankara-İstanbul high-speed train line construction. Although Kocaeli Provincial Directorate of Agriculture refused to reopen the stone quarry due to environmental concerns, Dağçı put pressure on the director of Kocaeli Provincial Directorate of Agriculture via TCDD General Director Karaman, Minister of Transportation, Maritime Affairs and Communications Binali Yıldırım, Kocali governor and Kocali mayor. Insisting that the reopening of stone quarry would give damage to environments as the stone quarry locates in a forestry land, director of Kocaeli Provincial Directorate of Agriculture attempted to resign from his post as he could not stand the pressure on him. Şevki Yılmaz, a former Welfare Party (RP) deputy, also arbitrated between two sides.

About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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