Turkish police detain 25 in tender rigging investigation

İzmir Port Administration headquarters in İzmir. (Photo: Cihan, Özdemir Özkan)

January 07, 2014, Tuesday/ 11:19:00

Twenty-five suspects, including prominent Turkish State Railways (TCDD) port directors and businessmen, were detained in simultaneous raids conducted in İzmir, İstanbul, Ankara, Van and Hatay Tuesday morning as part of a tender rigging investigation launched by the İzmir Chief Public Prosecutor's Office.

The İzmir Police Department's Organized Crime Unit raided the TCDD İzmir Port Administration, which operates under the Ministry of Transport, Maritime Affairs and Communications, in a pre-dawn operation on Tuesday and took 19 people into custody for their alleged links to tender rigging.

Among the suspects detained were TCDD İzmir Port Operating Manager T.Y., TCDD İzmir Port Deputy Operating Manager B.B., TCDD İzmir Port Business Operations Manager Y.Ş.A., TCDD İzmir Port officer N.A. as well as two other officers, H.B. and A.O.Y. The Cihan news agency reported that Yusuf Öztürk, chairman of the executive board of the İzmir branch of the Turkish Chamber of Shipping, was also among the detainees.

According to claims voiced by several media outlets on Tuesday, another detainee was M.C.B. of the İndeks Electrical and Electronics San. Tic. A.Ş., whose name was also listed among the suspects in the second phase of a major corruption investigation in which the sons of three ministers, many bureaucrats and renowned businessmen were detained on Dec. 17.

In a simultaneous raid on the Tatvan TCDD port administration in the eastern province of Van, Ş.Ç., who heads the Lake Van Ferry Property Directorate and who was formerly the director of the TCDD Department of Ports in Ankara, was detained.

Raids in Ankara saw TCDD Department of Ports head M.Y. detained as part of the tender rigging investigation.

In Hatay province, İskenderun Port Deputy Manager Okan Nar was detained as part of the investigation. Furthermore, three individuals were detained in İstanbul as part of the probe on Tuesday. Among them were Y.K. from Akmar Port and Shipyard Management San. Tic. Ltd. Şti and M.T. from İndeks Electrical and Electronics San. Tic. A.Ş.

The suspects are facing charges of giving and receiving bribes, tender rigging, corruption, misconduct, embezzlement and aggravated fraud.

According to the Cihan news agency, the number of detainees may rise to 37 as a number of bureaucrats from Ankara also appeared on the list of people to be detained. The operation was allegedly initiated a year ago on the order of former İzmir Governor Cahit Kıraç. The operation to detain all the suspects continues.

Meanwhile, police chiefs who conducted the operation Tuesday morning were removed from their posts. The private Doğan news agency reported that Deputy Police Chief Mehmet Ali Şevik, Organized Crime Unit Deputy Chief Taner Aydın and Anti-Narcotics Unit Chief Behzat Tuzcu were removed from their posts later on Tuesday.

Following the detention of some of its officials, the TCDD released a written statement on Tuesday in which it stated that eight TCDD employees were taken into custody to be questioned as part of the İzmir chief public prosecutor's probe. The TCDD denied in its statement claims that the police had carried out a search at the TCDD headquarters in Ankara, stating: “The investigation is being conducted confidentially by the prosecutor's office. We don't know whether the reports covered in the media about the investigation reflect the truth or not. However, we should say a search has not been carried out at the TCDD headquarters.”

Reaction from former Minister Yıldırım

Speaking to reporters during a visit to İzmir, Former Transportation, Maritime Affairs and Communications Minister Binali Yıldırım, who is currently running for the post of İzmir mayor under the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), reacted to the tender rigging investigation based in İzmir, stating that he finds the timing curious.

“I find the timing of the investigation very meaningful. The development of the investigation is certain. This investigation was first launched in 2011, but the operation has just started, this after three years. This move is a clear attempt to sabotage the elections and to create a false perception among the public before the elections [local elections are scheduled for March 30]. Of course, if there is something improper, this should be revealed. However, why did they wait three years? That's all I'm asking. Why was this operation launched just before the elections?”

According to claims reported by the Cihan news agency, a relative of Yıldırım was among the detainees. Responding to a question on these claims, Yıldırım said: “I do not have any knowledge about this. This is news to me. I have not called him, and I really don't know whether he was detained or not.”

The tender rigging investigation comes only two weeks after an operation as part of a major corruption and bribery investigation that netted 52 suspects, including the sons of three ministers, many bureaucrats and renowned businessmen on Dec. 17.

The government has hit back by sacking or reassigning hundreds of police officers throughout the country since the investigation became public last month, while a second investigation into large infrastructure projects championed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been blocked.

Hundreds of police officers were dismissed from their posts overnight and some moved to traffic duties, further undermining the graft investigation, which the prime minister portrays as a covert attempt by a rival to usurp state power.