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

    US-Russia Tensions Complicate Syria War

    With a shared enemy and opposing allies, Russia and the US are working to avoid confrontation

    Video Re-opening Old Wounds in Beirut's Bullet-riddled Yellow House

    Built in neo-Ottoman style in 1920s, it is set to be re-opened in Sept. as ‘memory museum’ - bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity

    Cambodian-Americans Lobby for Human Rights Resolution

    Resolution condemns all forms of political violence in Cambodia, urges Cambodian government to end human rights violations, calls for respect of press freedom

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora