Erdogan rejects graft claims against son

January 18, 2014 - 12:48:11 am
ISTANBUL: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan yesterday rejected allegations that his son was involved in the corruption scandal that has targeted some of his closest allies. 

“Recently, there have been smear campaigns by the main opposition against my children,” the embattled premier said.

“But let me make this clear: If one of my children was involved in such a thing, I would have immediately disowned them,” he said at a ceremony in Istanbul.

Prosecutors were reportedly blocked last month from expanding the probe to include Erdogan’s younger son Bilal, 34.

But Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said there had never been an arrest warrant for Bilal, who is on the board of a charitable foundation for students and is believed to also have business interests.

“I would like to state that there is no arrest warrant or order to detain Bilal,” he was quoted as saying on Thursday.

“The claims that he left the country or is hiding do not reflect reality,” he added.

Several newspapers earlier this month published photos of Bilal having a meeting with Yasin Al Qadi, a wealthy Saudi businessman once named on a UN list of Al Qaeda financiers. 

Earlier this week, anti-terror police detained two dozen suspects, reportedly including two top Al Qaeda figures, in a nationwide operation that also targeted an Islamic charity linked to the beleaguered government.

Erdogan says he is battling “a state within a state” and claims the anti-graft investigation was instigated by political rivals to undermine his government ahead of elections this year.

Dozens were detained in December, including top business leaders and sons of three ministers, who have resigned.

Erdogan has retaliated by launching a purge of police and prosecutors involved in the probe, which is focused on allegations of bribery in construction projects, gold smuggling and illicit dealings with Iran.

He has accused followers of an exiled Islamic cleric, once a key supporter of Erdogan’s ruling party, of being behind what he has branded a coup plot.

The Cumhuriyet newspaper on Thursday reported that two of the ministers whose sons were detained had accepted over $60m in bribes. 

Political tensions have battered financial markets, with the lira and stocks tumbling. The currency fell to a new low of 2.2246 to the dollar at yesterday’s close and 3.0177 to the euro while the Istanbul stock market slid 1.81 percent to 65,635.06. 

The turmoil has triggered concern about the state of democracy after Erdogan’s efforts to tighten the government’s grip on the judiciary.

A range of business groups, unions and rights groups issued a joint statement yesterday, warning about the impact of the crisis.

“Corruption claims and parallel state claims that have infested the environment have been threatening societal peace and stability and posing a danger to our internal peace,” said the statement signed by seven groups.

Meanwhile, authorities seized the assets of Mustafa Sarigul, the main opposition party CHP’s candidate for Istanbul mayor, an official said, ahead of a crucial local election in March.

The Savings Deposit Insurance Fund seized Sarigul’s assets after he and his business partners failed to repay a loan dating back to 1998, the TMSF official said.

Sarigul will run against incumbent Mayor, Kadir Topbas, of Erdogan’s centre-right AK Party. Polls suggest Topbas, who has run Turkey’s largest city and business capital for about a decade, will beat Sarigul, though the race may prove tight.