Turkey’s Erdoğan monopolizes high-value land sales, recording reveals

Turkey’s Erdoğan monopolizes high-value land sales, recording reveals

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (R) gestures next to TOKİ Chairman Ahmet Haluk Karabel during an earlier meeting in Ankara. (Photo: Today's Zaman)

March 20, 2014, Thursday/ 17:32:00/ KORAY TEKİN

Twitter whistleblower Başçalan (Prime Thief) leaked a voice recording on Thursday in which a voice allegedly belonging to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan criticizes a high-ranking government official for selling a valuable plot of land in İstanbul without his permission.

The conversation, purportedly between Erdoğan and Housing Development Administration of Turkey (TOKİ) Chairman Ahmet Haluk Karabel, has the prime minister chiding the official for selling a valuable plot of land in the Ataşehir district of İstanbul to a company called Biat İnşaat without informing him beforehand.

“From now on, you will get my approval before selling any valuable land,” Erdoğan instructs Karabel, according to a transcript accompanying the voice recording. In response, Karabel says that he already knows not to take action without Erdoğan's approval, but the prime minister challenges him, saying he did not know about the sale of the land in Ataşehir.

Appearing to be interested in the details of the sale, Erdoğan questions Karabel about the price and how many installments the company will pay for the land. Erdoğan further asks Karabel to research if a nullification of the sale would be possible since it took place without his permission. Karabel says he will send Erdoğan a folder with details of the case.

Karabel says the land was sold for TL 72 million and the Turkish construction company that bought it, Biat İnşaat, “had no problems paying in installments.”

Erdoğan's ever-increasing involvement in Turkey's construction sector is already a hot topic, and a second corruption investigation launched on Dec. 25 of last year shifted public attention towards irregularities in public tenders and major construction projects.

The Başçalan video is reminiscent of earlier alleged abuse in land sales by Erdoğan and family members. A group of voice recordings leaked by Twitter user Haramzadeler appears to document the involvement of Prime Minister Erdoğan's son Bilal in an illegal plan to transfer the valuable land of the Etiler Police Academy to a company called Bosphorus 360. The voice recordings also suggest the land, which was appraised at a market price of $1 billion, would be sold to this company without a public tender for $460 million, thus incurring a loss of $540 million.

A number of anonymous Twitter users have been divulging details from the files of the corruption investigation following the government-led imposition of a media blackout on the coverage of the graft investigation. Due to the reticence of the mainstream media, for the most part, to cover the corruption allegations because of government pressure or pro-government sympathies, social media, especially the micro-blogging site Twitter and video sharing sites, have become the major avenues for sharing details of the investigations.

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