18 April 2014, Friday
Today's Zaman

MİT warned PM about relationship between Zarrab, ministers

6 January 2014, Monday /ANKARA, TODAY'S ZAMAN
The National Intelligence Organization (MİT) sent a report to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in early 2013 warning him about suspicious relationships between some Turkish ministers and Reza Zarrab, an Iranian businessman living in Turkey who is currently under arrest as part of a major investigation into alleged corruption and bribery, according to a news portal.

T24 reported on Monday that an MİT agent had sent the report to the prime minister in April of last year, eight months before the launch of an operation as part of the corruption investigation that resulted in the arrests of Zarrab and the sons of two ministers as well as several bureaucrats and businesspeople. According to the news report, the MİT agent, the name of whom the news portal did not reveal, told the prime minister that Zarrab had “close relations” with then-Ministers Muammer Güler and Zafer Çağlayan. Both ministers resigned in late December, after their sons were arrested as part of the corruption investigation. Claims have emerged that the former ministers were involved in corruption and bribery.

The MİT report also stated that Zarrab met several times with Güler and Çağlayan to ask them for help in obtaining Turkish citizenship for his brother, Mohammed Zarrab. Zarrab's brother, as well as his father and sister-in-law, were granted Turkish citizenship in an unusually short period of time.

Turkish citizenship can be acquired after an applicant has lived in Turkey for at least five years. Applicants can also acquire Turkish citizenship in exceptional circumstances if they are nominated by the Interior Ministry and it is decreed by the Cabinet.

In exchange for their help, the businessman reportedly took the two former ministers on the umrah, a visit to the Kaaba in Mecca that is similar to the hajj pilgrimage, and paid their expenses while there. Additionally, Zarrab agreed to employ Güler's son, Barış Güler, as an advisor and to pay him a monthly salary of $15,000, according to the same report.

Additionally, the MİT agent warned in his report to the prime minister that the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) could have trouble if the relationships between Zarrab and the two ministers were revealed. No detail was available as to whether Prime Minister Erdoğan had responded to the report.

On Dec. 17, İstanbul and Ankara police staged dawn raids and detained more than 50 people in the corruption investigation. The sons of Güler and Çağlayan, as well as more than 20 other suspects, have since been arrested. The suspects stand accused of rigging state tenders, accepting and facilitating bribes for major urbanization projects, obtaining construction permits for protected areas in exchange for money, helping foreigners obtain Turkish citizenship with falsified documents and involvement in export fraud, forgery and gold smuggling.

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