Turkey's finance minister bought land on route of planned canal - report

(Updates with statements from İmamoğlu in paragraphs 5-7)

Turkey's Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, the son-in-law of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, purchased 13 hectares (3.2 acres) of land along the route of a planned shipping canal project designed to bypass Istanbul’s Bosporus Strait, Cumhuriyet newspaper said on Monday.

Erdoğan announced Kanal Istanbul in 2011 before he was elected prime minister for a third term, and Albayrak purchased the lot registered as farmland in Istanbul's Arnavutköy district a year after the announcement, Cumhuriyet said.

If Kanal Istanbul is completed, the value of the land around the project is expected to skyrocket with new zoning plans. Opposition figures after reports emerged that investors from Gulf countries, including members of the royal family of Turkey's ally Qatar, stood to make huge profits from buying up land around the project area.

But Albayrak’s father said the family had been interested in land in that area of the city long before the canal project was announced and purchased a lot in 2003. The minister had added to that in 2012 by buying land adjacent to that lot, he said.

Istanbul's opposition mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu on Monday dismissed reports on Albayrak's land purchase in the area of the canal, stressing his resolve against the Kanal Istanbul project.

"God willing, this canal will not be built. To be honest, I don't care who owns land (in the area), ministers, foreign investors, companies, I don't care,'' İmamoğlu said.

"What I care about is protecting the nature of Istanbul,'' he added.

The Istanbul mayor said on  Dec. 17 that he would investigate real estate purchases along the path of Kanal Istanbul.