DERVII – Ex-ministers’ testimonies confirm graft, rebutting coup claims

Ex-ministers’ testimonies confirm graft, rebutting coup claimsThe testimonies of the four former ministers who were involved in the Dec. 17 corruption scandal in front of the parliamentary Corruption Investigation Commission have revealed that the graft investigation was carried out on the basis of concrete evidence and was not an attempted coup against the government despite the governmentand#39s arguments to the contrary.

The testimony of the four ex-ministers — Egemen BaIII, Zafer aIlayan, Muammer Guler and ErdoIan Bayraktar — who were removed from their posts one week after the graft scandal went public on Dec. 17, revealed contradictions that endorse the validity of the investigation file that allegedly discovered corruption within the government.

Also, one of the testimonies confirmed that BarII Guler, the son of former Interior Minister Muammer Guler, had seven safe boxes and a vast sum of money in his residence as the reports and photographs taken during the raid indicated.The Corruption Investigation Commission was established in the summer by Parliament in order to investigate the graft allegations about the ex-ministers.

BarII Guler was also raided by the police on the morning of Dec. 17.

An audio recording revealed after the operation highlighted that Muammer Guler called his son and asked how much money he had at home. BarII allegedly responded by saying, andquotMy own money, just a few pennies.

andquot At Gulerand#39s insistence that he reveal a specific number, BarII replied, andquotI have around TL 1 billion, that is itandhellipandrdquoThe father and son had denied the audio recording, which was unveiled some time after the police operation, existed and claimed that the safes were placed in BarIIand#39s bedroom by the police officers who raided the residence. Speaking at that time to pro-government media outlets, Muammer Guler had claimed there was video footage showing that the police officers installed the safes in question in his sonand#39s house.

However Guler, who recently gave testimony to the commission, acknowledged that BarII had these safes long before the police raid, saying, andquotDue to the work that BarII is doing, he needs these safes from time to time,andrdquo contradicting his former statements.Similarly, former Economy Minister Zafer aIlayan confirmed during his testimony to the commission that he received a luxury watch from Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab, who is also a major suspect in the probe.

andldquoI had a lot of business to do, [and] no time to buy a watch. Thatand#39s why Zarrab brought it from abroad [for me],andrdquo aIlayan told the commission.

However in his earlier statements, aIlayan had denied the accusations that the watch was given to him by Zarrab. Zarrab is an Iranian businessman of Azerbaijani origin who is claimed to have gifted aIlayan a luxury Swiss watch worth 300,000 Swiss francs as well as having bribed him and two other former ministers.

aIlayan accompanied by two lawyers answered questions from members of the parliamentary Corruption Commission last Thursday for around one-and-a-half hours. He said he paid Zarrab for the Swiss watch and a piano worth TL 120,000 ($53,500) that he had also received from him andldquoIn fact, I paid [for the two items] with my wifeand#39s money,andrdquo aIlayan told the commission.

In March during one of the ruling Justice and Development Partyand#39s (AK Party) election campaigns in Mersin province prior to the March 30 local elections, aIlayan, who is also a member, had addressed the crowd by reacting harshly to the claims that he accepted a valuable watch from Zarrab. andquotThose who claim that I took a watch [from Zarrab] are despicable, ill-mannered and sleazy,andquot he said.

In a panic to conceal the corruption accusations in the wake of the Dec. 17 operation, the ex-ministers and other eminent political figures had rejected all the accusations leveled against them and accused some civil society groups of attempting a coup against the government through the corruption allegations.

According to media coverage, these ministers might be referred to the Supreme State Council, the title the Constitutional Court assumes when it tries top state officials, for trial as further indicated by Guler who asked the commission not to refer him to the council.Guler confirms penning reference letters for ZarrabThe investigation file also included allegations that ex-minister Guler penned a number of reference letters for Zarrab, which Zarrab sent to a number of Chinese companies in order to overcome the difficulties he was facing due to his front companies operating in China and involvement in illegal acts.

During his testimony, Guler acknowledged that he andldquohelped Zarrab by writing these letters,andrdquo in which firms owned by Zarrab were referred to as andquotrespected firms.andquot Gulerand#39s aiser, Abdullah Erin, who also gave testimony to the commission, further confirmed the letters, adding, andquotBarII Guler sent a sample of the letters to my personal e-mail address and I tried to turn it into an official type of document, then Guler undersigned it.

andrdquoEgemen BaIII, former European Union Affairs minister, was also among the ministers accused of accepting bribes — in his case in the form of money packed in chocolate boxes — on several occasions from Zarrab. He had previously denied the claims saying, andquotAll are a disgusting conspiracy.

andquotHowever during his recent statements to the commission, BaIII, though he rejected accepting money in boxes, confirmed that Zarrab gave him some gifts like luxury ties and chocolate, and defended his actions by saying, andldquoaccepting gifts is a common tradition in Turkish culture.andquotAnother contradiction, which contributes to the idea that the graft allegations against some government members are correct, was former Minister of Environment and Urban Planning ErdoIan Bayraktarand#39s recent testimony to the commission.

In his statement Bayraktar said there was nothing in the audio recordings that indicated his involvement in corruption while in office, confirming the authenticity of the audio clips in which Bayraktar and some government officials are heard discussing the easing of the zones that protect some plots of lands.In contrast to Bayraktarand#39s confirmation of the authenticity of the voice recordings, other ministers and then-Prime Minister ErdoIan repeatedly claimed that these recordings were fabricated and not genuine.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman