Turks ask whereabouts of missing $128 bln during Erdogan live broadcast

Hundreds of Turkish citizens asked where a missing $128 billion in central bank funds went during a live broadcast by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Saturday. 

Social media users following Erdoğan’s live address over Youtube flooded the comment section with questions about the money’s whereabouts,  Duvar news site reported, with some users simply sharing the numeric figure in the comments. 

The number of likes and dislikes the video received was hidden, Duvar said. Government officials previously blocked the amount of dislikes from being seen on an Erdogan address last year when they disabled the comment section of an address to students when many used it to express their dissatisfaction with his government.  

For weeks, the main opposition People’s Republican Party (CHP) has been waging a campaign centered on answering where the missing $128 billion in foreign reserves from the Turkish central bank went. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and President Erdogan angrily reject the CHP’s badgering over the funds. Authorities have gone so far as to dispatch police to CHP officers nationwide to remove banners asking what happened to the money. 

Erdoğan hit back over the criticism on Wednesday, saying significant foreign currency transactions were necessary due to the COVID-19 pandemic and global economic downturn. Similar measures would be taken again if necessary, he said. 

Critics say the vast sum of money was spent by the Treasury and Finance Ministry in a desperate effort to save the value of the lira under the tenure of Erdoğan’s son-in-law, Berat Albayrak. No foreign currency reserves had been sold since Albayrak left office in November, Bloomberg News reported, citing new Treasury and Finance Minister Lütfi Elvan.

Elvan has failed to meet a constitutional obligation to answer parliamentary questions about the foreign exchange transactions, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has said.

Political pressure to explain the reserve losses has mounted after Erdoğan sacked former finance minister Naci Ağbal as governor of the central bank in March. Ağbal, appointed in early November, sought to investigate the depletion of the reserves, making Erdoğan uncomfortable and contributing to his dismissal.