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Erdoğan, 4 others face criminal complaints over alleged corruption in airport tender

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Lawyers from a small opposition party have filed criminal complaints against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and four others due to their alleged involvement in a $1 billion corruption scheme concerning the operating rights of an airport in southern Turkey, the Gazete Duvar news website reported.

The People’s Liberation Party (HKP), a left-wing populist and anti-expansionist political party, has filed the criminal complaints against ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lawmaker Ali İhsan Arslan, Çeçen Holding chairman İbrahim Çeçen and businessman Ali Yeşildağ in addition to Erdoğan. The complaints were filed at the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office based on allegations made by Yeşildağ, a former Erdoğan insider who has been making bombshell allegations since last week about Erdoğan and his government’s involvement in corruption.

Yeşildağ, a member of the influential Yeşildağ family, claimed in a video posted on the YouTube account of investigative journalist Cevheri Güven that he and Arslan, also known as Mücahit Arslan, were key figures in a criminal organization that helped Erdoğan profit by manipulating a tender for the operating rights of Antalya Airport in 2007. In the video Yeşildağ shared how the operation was taken over from Çelebi Holding through a series of crimes and tricks, with the contract ultimately awarded to Çeçen.

According to Yeşildağ, Çelebi Holding was prepared to bid up to $5 billion for Antalya Airport, but its tender documents were stolen, which resulted in the company being excluded from the bidding. The specifications of the tender were detailed and the bureaucracy justified the disqualification of Çelebi Holding.

The contract was then awarded to İbrahim Çeçen for $3 billion, with Erdoğan allegedly pocketing the $1 billion in the process

HKP Central Executive Board member Adnan Okur called on the judiciary to take action regarding Yeşildağ’s allegations.

“Get your strength not from your pocketbook but from your conscience,” he said in a statement to the press.

A broad range of allegations including establishing and running a criminal organization, bid rigging, bribery and misconduct are directed at Erdoğan and the four others in the criminal complaints.

According to the 2022 Corruption Perceptions Index released by Transparency International, Turkey has fallen to 101st place among 180 countries, with a score of 36 out of 100, the lowest in the past 10 years. The score indicates the perceived level of public sector corruption on a scale of 0 to 100.

Transparency International’s study shows that Turkey’s backsliding started in late 2013 when two corruption investigations implicated then-prime minister and current president Erdoğan’s inner circle, which the government subsequently suppressed.

However, Yeşildağ’s allegations are unique since they show corrupt practices go as far back as 2007, when the country was on track to become an EU member state and the rule of law, albeit flawed, was in place.

The release of the video comes at a critical time, with presidential and parliamentary elections set to take place on May 14. These allegations could impact the outcome of the elections, as Erdoğan’s administration faces increased scrutiny amid an economic crisis and high inflation.

The Turkish government has not yet issued an official response to the allegations made by Yeşildağ.

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