Ahmet Takan, a columnist for the Yeni Çağ daily, claimed on Thursday that two prominent mayors in İstanbul and Ankara were forced to transfer money, totaling over $1 billion, deposited in banks overseas to Turkey after they were interrogated by Turkey’s intelligence agency over links to the Gülen movement, which the government accuses of being behind a failed coup last July.
Without mentioning the names of the two mayors, Takan implied the two were Ankara Mayor Melih Gökçek and İstanbul Mayor Kadir Topbaş, saying the Ankara mayor ordered his son to transfer $650 million after he was called to National Intelligence Organization (MİT) headquarters in Ankara as part of an investigation into the Gülen movement on Jan. 26.
“When operations were going on [against the Gülen movement on Jan. 26], a mayor in Ankara and his son were also investigated. He and his son were invited to the MİT campus in Yenimahalle for questioning instead of a police station. He was asked to transfer some of his money from overseas. He immediately told his son to transfer $650 million, which he did. Meanwhile, the mayor was kept as a guest at the MİT campus for two days as police continued to investigate the S. company,” Takan said.
He also added that “operations were not limited to Ankara. Similar demands were made [by MİT] of an İstanbul mayor. He also immediately transferred $400 million [from his overseas accounts] to Turkey.”
Based on information from his source in Turkey’s Finance Ministry, Takan says the cash inflow of over $1 billion from the two mayors strengthened the Turkish currency against the US dollar at that time.
Responding to Takan’s column from his Twitter account on Thursday, Gökçek called Takan a dishonorable person.
“Your are a dishonorable and low person, if you don’t prove what you have said.” Gökçek tweeted.
Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), of which both Gökçek and Topbaş are members, launched a wide-scale witch hunt against the faith-based Gülen movement, a global civil society movement inspired by the views of US-based Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, following the failed coup.
Despite the fact that Gülen denied the accusation and called for an international investigation into the coup attempt, the government, under emergency decrees, took over hundreds of companies, seized the assets of businessmen and shut down institutions linked to the movement.