Suspected university rector keeps YTL 1 million in safe

Suspected university rector keeps YTL 1 million in safe

Thirty-three people, including university rector Süleyman Okudan, were detained on Monday as part of a fraud investigation in Konya and underwent medical check-ups yesterday.

November 19, 2008, Wednesday/ 18:25:00/ HAMZA ERDOĞAN
Officials found foreign currency equaling about YTL 1 million in a safe at the home of Selçuk University Rector Süleyman Okudan, who has been accused of being the leader of a criminal gang involved in making illegal payments to high-level officials and professors.The payoffs, totaling about YTL 500,000 over three years, were made through the Foundation for the Development and Sustainability of Selçuk University.

Following a public complaint, Parliament had ordered the Court of Accounts to conduct an investigation at the university. After a year of analysis, it was determined that the foundation had been used to cover illegal practices.

Another revelation was that some university professors who were obliged to supervise the theses of graduate students as part of their academic duties were actually paid up to YTL 300,000 each for the service through the foundation.

Thirty-three people, including the university rector, were detained on Monday as part of the fraud investigation.

The anti-fraud operation, organized by the Konya Police Department's Anti-smuggling and Organized Crime Bureau, had been conducted in eight provinces. Amongst those detained were Okudan; İbrahim Genç, regional director of the Konya Foundation; Rıza Sarıbabıçcı, medical superintendent of Konya's Numune Hospital; and several administrators from other hospitals. Police officers from Konya said they also detained another suspect yesterday.

Officials said the detentions were the final step of an operation called "Okyanus," which is related to alleged criminal activities of the Okyanus Group. Also among the detainees is the assistant director for procurement at Karaman State Hospital. Some of those who were detained are accused of rigging competitive bidding processes and attempting to influence a trial.

Dr. Sarıbabıçcı was taken to Numune Hospital's cardiology unit Monday evening after he had heart and blood pressure problems. Officials said he remains in the cardiology unit and that he is doing well.

Escorted by high-level security, all the detainees were taken to Numune Hospital early in the morning yesterday for a health check, a routine procedure for all detained suspects in Turkey in accordance with Turkey's Code on Criminal Procedure (CMUK). On the way to the hospital journalists asked Okudan to make a statement, but he declined, saying he would give his legal testimony first. After the health check, the detainees were taken back to the police department in Konya.

During an operation on Sept. 23 a number of Okyanus Group officials were detained on charges of establishing a criminal organization and illegal practices in the hiring of janitorial, security and food services. The head of the corporation's board of directors, Nusret Argun, Selçuk University Meram Medical Faculty Superintendent Mustafa Mete and the president of the Konya branch of the Atatürkist Thought Association (ADD), Arif Aytürk, were taken into custody.

The Okyanus Group had previously won bids to provide janitorial, security and food services for the Selçuk University Meram Medical Faculty Hospital and the Konya Numune Hospital, plus several health firms in Konya and other cities. The investigation, which started in April, revealed that Aytürk had been illegally informing the Okyanus Group about the business activities of firms it was competing against in state tenders.

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