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

WHO: Anti-Ebola Efforts Should Focus on West Africa

Official says WHO is 'reasonably confident' countries bordering those hardest hit by the Ebola outbreak are not seeing the virus crossing their borders More

South Sudan Crisis Threatens Development

Economic costs and lost development opportunities in South Sudan have erased what little progress the country has made since independence in 2011 More

Ukraine PM Warns Russia May Try to Disrupt Sunday Poll

Arseniy Yatsenyuk orders full security mobilization for parliamentary election to prevent ‘terrorist acts’ from being carried out More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
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 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.
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 US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid