Graft probe: daily claims three ministers received over 70 millions of dollars in bribes

According to a summary of proceedings sent to the Ministry of Justice regarding four former Cabinet ministers involved in an ongoing graft investigation, the Cumhuriyet daily claimed on Thursday that three of them accepted millions of dollars in bribes.

The file concerning Çağlayan, Güler and Bağış was reportedly submitted to the ministry in a single summary of proceedings, while a separate file was sent to the Justice Ministry for Erdoğan Bayraktar, the former minster of environment and urban planning who resigned from his post and whose name is also involved in the graft probe.

The case containing the corruption investigation’s summary of proceedings is reported to consist of 27 folders and 504 pages and was sent by the İstanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office to the Ministry of Justice on Jan. 2 and put in the ministry’s records on Jan. 4.

According to the report, Güler is accused of receiving bribes, establishing an organization to violate the law, influence pedaling and protecting criminals; former EU Minister Bağış is accused of accepting bribes; and Çağlayan is accused of accepting bribes, establishing an organization to violate the law, creating exports using fake documents and violating the law banning smuggling.

In one of his telephone talks with Reza Zarrab, an Iranian businessman of Azeri origin living in Turkey who was also arrested as part of the probe, Çağlayan is claimed to have said: “The current account deficit is on the decrease. Let’s move to export gold for three months.”

Çağlayan was allegedly involved with Zarrab in efforts to bring 1.5 tons of gold from Ghana to Turkey by plane on Jan. 1, 2013, declared at customs as a “mineral sample.” It is reportedly said in the documents that police were able to track 1,280 kilos of the gold, but were unable to do so for the remainder of nearly 250 kilos.

Çağlayan also allegedly gave Zarrab fake documents permitting the export of 150,000 tons of cargo on a ship with a capacity of only 5,000 tons.

The issue seems to have caused disagreement between Çağlayan and Zarrab, evident from a phone call quoted in the daily: “Do it properly. This is almost unbelievable! How can you [possibly] export 150,000 tons [of cargo] on a ship with a capacity of 5,000 tons?”

In the summary of proceedings sent to the ministry, prosecutors requested that Parliament remove legislative immunity for the four ministers. Cumhuriyet’s report says the Ministry of Justice is currently going over the files concerning the ministers in accordance with Article 100 of the Constitution, which also allows the ministry to send files back to the prosecutor’s office instead of submitting them to Parliament and also instructs Parliament to conduct a secret ballot to decide whether a parliamentary commission of inquiry will be established.

It was also revealed by a voice recording published in Cumhuriyet on Thursday that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan spoke on the phone with a number of suspects involved in the graft probe, about issues which are currently under police investigation.

“It came out that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was caught talking to people whose phones had been wiretapped by the police as part of the graft probe,” the Cumhuriyet daily said, basing the report on statements made on the Artı 1 television station.

On a program called “Canlı Yayın” (Live Edition) on the station, the daily quoted Yavuz Oğhan, editor-in-chief of the TV station, as saying: “The police are listening to [wiretapping] the prime minister. What else can make a bigger story than this in our country. We know that Erdoğan is being wiretapped. These [voice] records have been kept aside for a year.”

Cumhuriyet reported that during the TV program, voices allegedly belonging to Erdoğan and a businessperson, L.A. (whose name was involved in the second phase of the graft investigation and blocked by the government) were broadcast; L. A. was quoted as saying: “My brother, will that thing be arranged? You were saying 6 percent… Will that still be possible?” In response, Erdoğan was quoted saying, “Sure, of course,” and allegedly provided some additional information on the issue.

“The dialogues that appear in the summary of proceedings sent by the police are said to be related to housing projects planned to be built in forested areas [in İstanbul],” the daily said. Noting that the law allows housing development over only 6 percent of the total of forest areas, the report said: “This provision [in the law] was interpreted by the Supreme Court of Appeals as allowing for housing to be built over only six acres of a piece of land big as 100 acres. However, those planning to build housing in forested areas wanted the housing distributed over the whole area given.”



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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