Prosecutors say no need to investigate ex-minister’s confessions about graft scandal

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Turkish prosecutors have decided that there is no need to investigate the admission of a former minister who said the evidence against him in a graft scandal investigation in late 2013 was genuine and not doctored as alleged by the ruling party.

Erdoğan Bayraktar, the former minister of environment and urban planning, in an interview posted on YouTube admitted the charges against him in connection with the Dec-17-25, 2013 corruption scandal that shook the Turkish government to the core in 2013.

The probe implicated the family members of four cabinet ministers as well as the children of then-prime minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Despite the scandal resulting in the resignation of the cabinet members, the investigation was dropped after prosecutors and police chiefs were removed from the case. Erdoğan, officials of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the pro-government media have described the investigation as an attempt to overthrow the government.

“Whatever there is in the case file against me is true. Everything in my case file, including voice recordings, audio surveillance and the [transcripts of] wiretapped phone conversations is completely genuine. Theirs [the other ministers] might not be, but in my case, it is,” Bayraktar said, contradicting the AKP’s argument that the police chiefs conducting the investigation had doctored the evidence.

“I accept everything in the case file about me,” he said.

Acting on Bayraktar’s confessions, the People’s Liberation Party (HKP), a left-wing populist and anti-expansionist political party, filed a complaint at the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office against former ministers Egemen Bağış, Muammer Güler and Zafer Çağlayan as well as Bayraktar on charges of establishing a crime organization, embezzlement, corruption, misconduct in office and failure to report a crime by a public official.

The prosecutor’s office, however, decided that there was no need to investigate Bayraktar’s admissions about the corruption investigations because an investigation had already been conducted into them. At the time government-appointed prosecutors had conducted a speedy investigation into the corruption allegations and immediately dropped the charges against the suspects.

Erdoğan dismissed the corruption investigations as a conspiracy against his government by the Gülen movement, a group inspired by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, designated the faith-based movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members.

He locked up thousands, including many prosecutors, judges and police officers involved in the investigation.

Some of the claims that were part of the corruption investigations were later substantiated in New York federal court where Turkish banker Mehmet Hakan Atilla was sentenced to 32 months for conspiring to violate US sanctions on Iran and other offenses.

The graft scandal erupted with the arrest of the sons of three then-ministers from the AKP, Iranian-Turkish businessman Reza Zarrab, the director of a state-owned bank, a district mayor and many more on December 17, 2013. Zarrab’s close relationships with the Turkish ministers, whom he admitted bribing as he came forward as a witness after a plea bargain with the US prosecutors in the federal court case, were revealed via audio recordings of wiretapped phone conversations shared on the Internet by anonymous users.

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