The leader of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) has said that a total of $630 million was collected from eight businesspeople, upon instructions by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, to buy Sabah media group, a pro-government media outlet that owns dailies and television stations.
“I will ask you to listen to these [wiretapped] conversations and voice recordings [between businesspeople and leading government officials] at the next group meeting,” CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said at the party's parliamentary group meeting on Tuesday. “People should know how Turkey is being plundered,” he added.
Holding in his hand a summary of investigation proceedings concerning former cabinet ministers allegedly involved in a graft scandal, Kılıçdaroğlu maintained that Binali Yıldırım, the former minister of transportation, maritime affairs and communications, collected a total of $630 million from eight businesspeople in a period of two months upon instruction by Erdoğan.
According to the CHP leader, Mehmet Cengiz, Celal Koloğlu, Nihat Özdemir and İbrahim Çeçen each contributed $100 million to the $630 million pool; they are all some of Turkey's leading contractors who won major public tenders in recent years.
Kılıçdaroğlu said that the total value of public tenders that have so far been granted to those instructed to contribute to the pool is as big as $87.832 billion.
All throughout his address, the CHP leader referred to Erdoğan as the “chief thief," saying that various voice recordings published in the media revealed that it was upon instructions by the prime minister -- who was referenced as "gentleman" in the recorded conversations between Yıldırım and a number of businesspeople -- that everything regarding corruption has taken place.
“People should know that the person who serves as prime minister is a person who deals out [public] tenders [as he wishes],” Kılıçdaroğlu said. He added that Yıldırım managed the money pool that was formed through collections from businesspeople so that the pro-government media group, which includes the Sabah daily and ATV television station, could be bought.
The opposition party leader also maintained that the Foundation of Youth and Education in Turkey (TÜRGEV), of which Erdoğan's son Bilal Erdoğan is an executive board member, served as a center where bribes are transferred by businessmen whose companies are granted public tenders.
According to some voice recordings recently published in the media, the prime minster and his son Bilal, together with some other ministers, are also involved in the corruption scandal.
85 billion euros pocketed
“There is no state around. The Turkish Republic is being governed by a [criminal] gang,” Kılıçdaroğlu said, stressing that the corruption revealed by the investigation is currently the biggest corruption case in the world. “In only the first graft probe, the amount of money that was pocketed was 85 billion euros.”
Given that prosecutors originally in charge of various graft probes have recently been reassigned to other posts, Kılıçdaroğlu warned the government that it should not ever think of tampering with what has been written about the former cabinet ministers in the summary of investigative proceedings that was delivered to the Ministry of Justice.
Saying that his party knows that some summaries have already been delivered to the Justice Ministry, the CHP leader said: “We know what is inside. We know each line of them. If you tamper with them, you will be called to account.
"The people will not forgive plundering or those who grasp things that belong to others,” he added.
Kılıçdaroğlu also criticized Erdoğan and the ministers allegedly involved in corruption for pretending to be innocent. “If you have lost your sense shame, then you are lost,” he said, referencing a saying by the Prophet Mohammed.