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Kılıçdaroğlu claims Erdoğan family transferred millions of lira to US for visas to flee Turkey

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s family members were involved in the transfer of 1 billion lira ($60.5 million) from pro-government foundations to a foundation in the United States in a scheme to acquire US visas to flee Turkey in the event of a change in government in the country, Republican People’s Party (CHP) Chairman Kemal Kılçdaroğlu claimed on Tuesday, citing bank statements showing the transfers.

Earlier Tuesday Kılıçdaroğlu claimed that Erdoğan and his close circle were planning to flee the country to avoid prosecution if the government changes.

Kılıçdaroğlu’s earlier remarks came at a meeting of his party in parliament while he was repeating a previous call he made to bureaucrats not to obey unlawful orders from Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.

At 10 p.m. local time on Tuesday, the CHP leader posted a video on Twitter in which he gave details about his allegation.

According to Kılıçdaroğlu, Erdoğan and people in his close circle, including his family members, are planning to flee Turkey and that 1 billion lira ($60.5 million) had been transferred to the United States through the pro-government Service for Youth and Education Foundation of Turkey (TÜRGEV) and the Ensar Foundation to help to obtain residence and work permits in the US.

The TÜRGEV and Ensar foundations jointly established the Turken Foundation Inc., and according to documents shared by the CHP’s US representative Yurter Özcan, a total of $60.5 million was transferred from the TÜRGEV and Ensar foundations to the Turken Foundation between 2014 and 2020.

Behram Turan, chairman of the board of the Turken Foundation, and Memiş Yetim, its chief financial officer, both of whom are US citizens, donated money to US politicians on behalf of the foundation, Deutsche Welle’s Turkish service (DW Türkçe) reported, citing the FARA (Foreign Agents Registration Act) Registration Unit of the US Department of Justice.

According to a document obtained by DW Türkçe, Yetim donated $5,400 to the campaign of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party candidate for president in the 2016 election. In addition to Clinton, Yetim donated $2,000 to the campaign of former police officer Eric Adams, now the mayor of New York City. He donated $1,000 to Democratic congressman Gregory Meeks and $5,800 to Tayfun Selen, a Turkish-American citizen who was elected to the Morris County, New Jersey, Board of County Commissioners after serving as committeeman and mayor of Chatham Township in the same state.

Following Kılıçdaroğlu’s allegations, Justice and Development Party (AKP) spokesperson Ömer Çelik accused him of carrying out a “smear campaign” against the government. Çelik, who appeared on a live broadcast late on Tuesday, stated that the TÜRGEV and Ensar foundations carry out their activities legally in the US.

Erdoğan’s lawyer, Hüseyin Aydın, announced that legal action will be taken against Kılıçdaroğlu for his statements.

“[We] will take legal action against Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu for his baseless allegations and slanders beyond reason against Mr. President,” Aydın tweeted.

Erdoğan is accused by critics of establishing one-man rule in the country, engaging in massive corruption and using the state’s resources for the benefit of his family and cronies while the the Turkish people are overwhelmed by the increasing cost of living caused by the depreciation of the Turkish lira and a record level of inflation at around 70 percent.

Public surveys show Erdoğan and his election ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), losing considerable public support.

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