İstanbul mayor faces new investigation over alleged procurement irregularities

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Turkey’s Interior Ministry has launched a preliminary investigation into İstanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu on accusations that the state suffered financial loss due to the municipality’s purchase of disinfectant as part of measures to combat the coronavirus pandemic, the Sözcü daily reported.

According to the ministry, there were irregularities in the tender for 15,000 liters of disinfectant from the NHP pharmaceuticals company on March 19, 2020, shortly after the outbreak of the pandemic in Turkey. The purchase was made based on Article 21 of the İstanbul Municipality’s Law on Tenders. The preliminary investigation into İmamoğlu was launched by the ministry under the law on the prosecution of civil servants and other public officials. İmamoğlu has been asked to submit a defense statement to the ministry inspectors.

The İstanbul mayor recently faced another ministry investigation on allegations he was disrespectful to the tomb of Ottoman Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror last year because he clasped his hands behind when he visited his tomb.

The ministry, however, declined last week to allow a full investigation into the mayor amid public outrage and criticism, with many describing the allegations as ridiculous and politically motivated.

The ministry’s decision came following a controversial statement from the country’s interior minister, Süleyman Soylu, who said that İmamoğlu’s actions at the tomb constituted a “criminal act” in his view but that he would not allow an investigation into the mayor.

The İstanbul mayor, who ended the years-long rule of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the local elections of 2019, is frequently the target of judicial harassment.

In March, he was ordered by a court to pay a fine of TL 7,080 ($930) for insulting a former governor in the Black Sea province of Ordu. İmamoğlu denied the charges and described the case as politically motivated.

The AKP, which launched a massive crackdown on non-loyalist citizens following a failed coup in 2016, is accused of taking the country’s judiciary under its control and giving orders to judges and prosecutors to punish its opponents and critics.

In the meantime, no investigation has been launched into former minister Ruhsar Pekcan after she confirmed allegations that a company in which she and her husband are partners was chosen to supply disinfectant to the ministry.

Pekcan was removed in a Cabinet reshuffle last month after the release of a report by the Oda TV news website saying that Nanoksia Biotechnology – co-owned by Pekcan and her husband – was chosen for the supply of thousands of liters of disinfectant, allegedly worth TL 9 million ($1.1 million), to the Trade Ministry headed by her.

Pekcan released a written statement on the ministry website confirming that the ministry procured the disinfectant worth TL 580,000 ($71,243) without holding a tender, insisting that the amount was “far lower than the average market price” for the disinfectant.

However, it later turned out that Pekcan sold the disinfectant to the ministry 75 percent above market price.

The ministry paid 175 Turkish lira for five liters of the disinfectant, which the company usually sells to vendors for 100 lira per five liters.

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