News / Europe

Source: Turkey Detains Ministers' Sons, Businessmen in Graft Probe

A TV correspondent reports in front of Halkbank headquarters in Atasehir, in the Asian part of Istanbul, Dec. 17, 2013.
A TV correspondent reports in front of Halkbank headquarters in Atasehir, in the Asian part of Istanbul, Dec. 17, 2013.
Reuters
Turkish police detained the sons of three cabinet ministers and several well-known businessmen as part of investigations into alleged corruption on Tuesday, state officials said, in a blow to Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan months ahead of elections.

Police carried out dawn raids in the main commercial city Istanbul, detaining at least 18 people including prominent business figures, and searched the headquarters of state-run Halkbank in the capital Ankara, state officials and banking sources said. Halkbank shares fell some five percent.

Turkish commentators saw the hand of powerful Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen behind the operation, whose network of followers holds influential positions in institutions from the police and secret services to the judiciary.

Erdogan and Gulen have been locked in an acrimonious row in recent weeks over government plans to abolish private “prep” schools, many of which are run by Gulen's Hizmet [“Service”] movement and provide funding and new followers.

“It is a very bold move by the movement, one that you can't possibly ignore. It is a battle to curb each other's power,” said Ahmet Sik, a journalist detained for a year over his book on Gulen's life and influence.

Turkey holds local polls in 2014 that will be a test of Erdogan's power after a year that has seen unprecedented protests and riots against what some opponents see as an authoritarian style of government. He remains broadly popular, but some see his vulnerability in a rift with Hizmet.

Tuesday's operation, launched by the chief prosecutor's office in Istanbul, consisted of three separate investigations, according to the website of the mainstream daily Hurriyet.

One involved Halkbank, one of Turkey's biggest banks, whose offices were searched. Halkbank officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Police also searched the headquarters of the Agaoglu Group of construction magnate Ali Agaoglu, 59, its chief executive Hasan Rahvali told Reuters.

“We are talking about a wide-scoping investigation here. It is not focused on Ali Agaoglu,” Hasan Rahvali, the chief executive of Agaoglu Group, said.

“This investigation is related to claims of bribery against some public officials. They searched the company in the early hours this morning but could not find any criminal evidence.”

He said Ali Agaoglu had been asked by the police to come and make a statement as part of the investigation.

A third investigation focused on the mayor of Istanbul's Fatih district and the three ministers' sons, the newspaper said.

Deepening political row

The sons of Interior Minister Muammer Guler, Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan and Environment and City Planning Minister Erdogan Bayraktar were detained, according to state officials in Ankara and Turkish newspaper reports.

Officials from the three ministries could not immediately be reached for comment.

Istanbul Governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu told reporters the investigation was continuing and he could not comment. Officials from Erdogan's ruling AK Party could not immediately be reached and police also declined to comment.

The developments, and fears of a deepening political row, weighed on Turkish markets. The main stock index was down 2 percent at 73,350 points, well below a 0.19 percent rise in the wider emerging markets index.

“These are fairly seismic developments. I guess inevitably people will link these to internal AK Party fissures and the battle between Erdogan supporters and the Gulen movement,” said Timothy Ash, head of emerging markets research at Standard Bank. “The gloves will now be off.”

Gulen runs a network of schools and other social facilities across the Middle East, Asia and Africa from a compound in the United States. He moved to the United States in 1999 after being charged with attempting to undermine the secular state.

He was subsequently acquitted but has remained in Pennsylvania, an enigmatic figure who gives little hint of his intentions in Turkish politics but is viewed with caution in all areas of the state.

Erdogan has incensed Gulen's movement with plans to abolish the “prep” schools. Istanbul member of parliament Hakan Sukur, a former international footballer and well-known follower of Gulen, quit the AK Party on Monday in protest.

Erdogan was first elected in 2002 and has introduced sweeping reforms that have broken the political power of the military and stimulated the economy. Some secularists accuse him of imposing Islamist values, something he denies.

The movement has helped Erdogan's Islamist-rooted AK Party win a growing share of the vote in three successive elections over the past decade.

There have long been ideological differences, though, with many of Gulen's followers seeing him as a more progressive and pro-Western influence on Turkey than Erdogan, whose views on issues from abortion to alcohol consumption have triggered growing accusations of interference in Turkish private life.

Since he came to power, Erdogan has built his own body of wealthy loyalists, largely from the same religiously minded professional and business class that revere Gulen. The rift between the two sides risks fracturing their support base ahead of local and presidential elections next year.

You May Like

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid