Nov 28 2017

Turkish opposition accuses Erdoğan of hiding money offshore

Turkey’s main opposition party said  family members of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had sent cash to an offshore bank account in the Isle of Man.

The money, transferred in 2011 and 2012 by Erdoğan’s brother and brother-in law, totalled $5 million, Republican People’s Party leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu told members of his party during a speech in parliament on Tuesday. The broadcast of Kılıçdaroğlu’s speech was cut by state-run TRT television just before he began outlining the accusations.

“There is a tiny company founded in the state of the Isle of Man. A tiny little island. We are holding the foundation papers of that company. Do you know the founders?” Kılıçdaroğlu asked.

He called on the president to provide details about Sıdkı Ayhan, the founder of the company, and another individual, Kasım Öztaş.

Erdoğan has faced accusations about his personal wealth since his party came to power in 2002. They intensified after a corruption scandal broke late in 2013, in which recordings purported to show he and his son Bilal seeking to hide millions of dollars in cash from investigators.

The scandal, centred around an allegedly illegal gold trade with Iran, also ensnared several of his ministers, who were forced to resign. Police and prosecutors who were leading the case were then arrested and charges dropped against suspects, including Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab.

Kılıçdaroğlu said his party was in possession of all transaction documents related to the transfers, as well as Swift messages and bank details.

Erdoğan, in a speech to his party earlier in the day, said he had instructed his lawyers to claim 1.5 million lira ($382,000) in compensation from Kılıçdaroğlu for falsely claiming that he had hidden money offshore. Erdoğan said at the weekend he would resign if it was proven he held money in offshore accounts.

Political pressure is mounting on Erdoğan as the trial of Mehmet Hakan Atilla, an executive of state-run Halkbank, begins in New York. Atilla is accused by prosecutors of conspiring with Zarrab and Halkbank officials to launder hundreds of millions of dollars through the U.S. banking system on behalf of Iran. Erdoğan said on Tuesday that he had discussed "cases against Turkey" with President Donald Trump during a phone call last week, and was due to speak with Trump again this week.

Zafer Çağlayan, a former economy minister under Erdoğan, is also indicted in the case, but remains outside the United States. He was last seen in public at a ceremony with Erdoğan in late August.