Ex-CEO of Turkish bank freed in graft probe

February 15, 2014 - 12:00:00 am
ISTANBUL: The former CEO of Turkey’s state-run Halkbank, who was arrested two months ago in a wide-ranging graft probe engulfing key government allies, has been released pending trial yesterday, media said.

Suleyman Aslan was among 24 people including the sons of three former cabinet ministers who were charged and remanded in custody as part of investigations into bribery allegations.

Aslan was charged with corruption, fraud and money laundering in connection with illegal gold sales to sanctions-hit Iran in return for energy imports.

An Istanbul court released Aslan — the first high-profile suspect to be freed— and eight others on condition of judicial control and enforced travel ban on them, Hurriyet daily reported on its website.

Police had seized $4.5m in cash hidden in shoe boxes in Aslan’s house, but the former CEO stated that he was holding onto the money for charity.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan also said the cash found in Aslan’s house was not the bank’s money and alleged that Halkbank was targeted by international plotters.

Aslan was replaced as head of the company earlier this month.

His release prompted sharp criticism from opposition lawmakers, who accuse the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) of protecting the suspects.

Former culture minister Ertugrul Gunay, who resigned from the AKP in a protest against Erdogan’s way of dealing with the probe, took to Twitter to slam the court decision.

“The banker with 4.5 million (dollars) found at his home is free now. And the laws that will enable the release of others are on the way,” he wrote.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu claimed last week that the government would release Reza Zarrab, the Azerbaijani businessman who was charged with forming a ring that bribed officials to disguise illegal gold sales to Iran via Halkbank.

“Riza Zarrab threatened to speak out if he remained in jail. He will be released soon,” Kilicdaroglu said.