Turkish President Erdoğan Embroiled in New, $15 Million Scandal

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan came to power 14 years ago as a devout Muslim, announcing that he intended to eliminate corruption from Turkish politics.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (Photo: Michał Józefaciuk)

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 he had condemned.

As British historian Lord Acton once said, “Power tends to corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely!”

This week, I wish to cover Erdoğan’s fourth corruption scandal, starting by summing up the first three involving him and his family.

The first case was regarding Erdoğan’s receiving an oil tanker worth $25 million as a gift from Mubariz Mansimov, an Azerbaijani billionaire, in 2008. At Erdoğan’s request, Mansimov later became a Turkish citizen and changed his last name to Gurbanoğlu.

The second case occurred in Dec. 2013, when Erdoğan and four of his ministers were implicated in a multimillion-dollar corruption probe. Faced with litigation, all four ministers resigned. Erdoğan 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 Erdoğan and his son Bilal had been recorded, revealing their discussions on how to hide the hundreds of millions of dollars in cash they had mysteriously received.

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 Cağlayan, who was accused of receiving millions of dollars in bribes from Zarrab in exchange for arranging the illegal scheme. Zarrab also implicated President Erdoğan for having authorized the illegal gold for oil trade.

The fourth and latest corruption scheme involves members of Erdoğan’s family who reportedly transferred $15 million to an offshore company called Bellway Limited in the tax haven of Isle of Man, U.K., in Dec. 2011 and Jan. 2012. This accusation was made by Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. The Isle of Man is a self-governing British Crown dependency in the Irish Sea, between England and Ireland.

Party Chairman Kılıçdaroğlu recently announced that a company was established on Aug. 1, 2011 on the Isle of Man with a founding capital of one British pound. He revealed the bank statements and copies of the $15 million wire transfers to the Bellway Limited company:

  • On Dec. 15, 2011, Erdoğan brother-in-law Ziya İlgen transferred $2.5 million, and $1.25 million on Dec. 26, 2011.
  • On Dec. 15, 2011, Erdoğan’s brother Mustafa transferred $2.5 million, and $1.25 million on Dec. 26, 2011.
  • On Dec. 27, 2011, Erdogan father-in-law Osman Ketenci transferred $1.25 million, and $1 million on Dec. 28, 2011.
  • On Dec. 27, 2011, Erdoğan’s former executive assistant, Mustafa Gündoğan, transferred $1.25 million, and $250,000 on Dec. 28, 2011.
  • On Dec. 29, 2011, Erdogan’s son Ahmet Burak Erdoğan transferred $1.45 million, and $2.3 million on Jan. 4, 2012.

Kılıçdaroğlu filed a parliamentary motion requesting an investigation of the transfers. However, the majority, dominated by Erdoğan’s AK Party, voted down the measure. When Kılıçdaroğlu was addressing parliament regarding the allegations against Erdoğan, the Turkish state television cut off the live transmission!

Turkish prosecutors announced last week that they are investigating the charges against Erdoğan. However, as is widely known, no judge would dare to rule that Erdoğan 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, Erdoğan 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 Özel, a lawyer for President Erdoğan, stated that the bank documents publicized by Kılıçdaroğlu were “fake” and described the allegations as “lies.” Erdoğan threatened that Kılıçdaroğlu “would pay a price,” and filed a lawsuit against him seeking $500,000 for defamation.

These scandals may have an adverse effect on President Erdoğan’s re-election in 2019, assuming that he would permit a fair election. Because he persists to undermine Turkey’s reputation worldwide, we hope that President Erdoğan remains in office.

Harut Sassounian

Harut Sassounian

California Courier Editor
Harut Sassounian is the publisher of The California Courier, a weekly newspaper based in Glendale, Calif. He is the president of the Armenia Artsakh Fund, a non-profit organization that has donated to Armenia and Artsakh one billion dollars of humanitarian aid, mostly medicines, since 1989 (including its predecessor, the United Armenian Fund). He has been decorated by the presidents of Armenia and Artsakh and the heads of the Armenian Apostolic and Catholic churches. He is also the recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.

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