İzmir municipalities accused of illegally funding political party, unions
On Monday, police searched the offices of the metropolitan and Karabağlar municipalities in İzmir and detained 40 people in the wake of claims that the municipalities were engaged in corruption and tender rigging.
Four specially authorized prosecutors involved in an ongoing investigation into the metropolitan and Karabağlar municipalities in İzmir, both run by the Republican People's Party (CHP), have accused the two municipalities of illegally funding a political party and unions.
On Monday, police searched the offices of the two municipalities and detained 40 people in the wake of claims that the municipalities were engaged in corruption and tender rigging. Police officers seized some documents during the search and detainees were taken in for questioning on corruption and bid rigging claims. The search continued through Tuesday.
In addition to corruption and bid rigging, the prosecutors accused the two municipalities of transferring TL 300,000 to a political party. Some Turkish newspapers claimed that the political party is the Workers' Party (İP). The municipalities funded the İP in order to financially support the party's counter-propaganda against the Ergenekon probe, according to the dailies. İP leader Doğu Perinçek was arrested in 2009 as part of the investigation into Ergenekon, a clandestine criminal network accused of working to overthrow the government. Perinçek is still under arrest.
There are currently 39 separate cases against the İzmir Metropolitan Municipality and the Karabağlar Municipality. In 2006 the Court of Accounts initiated an investigation into the accounts and transactions of the two municipalities. As a result of the investigation, the court recently concluded that the municipalities were engaged in a corruption, costing around TL 140 million. The Court of Accounts forwarded the report it prepared on its investigation to the İzmir 10th High Criminal Court, which assigned four specially authorized prosecutors to look into the claims of corruption. The prosecutor found that the İzmir Metropolitan Municipality engaged in irregularities in 400 transactions, which cost the state millions of lira.
According to the findings of the prosecutors, the two İzmir municipalities illegally funded the ultranationalist Aydınlık newsweekly, a publication put out by the İP. The municipalities in addition funded demonstrations organized by the Turkey Youth Union (TGB), known for their ideological proximity to the İP. The demonstrations were mainly in protest of the Ergenekon investigation.
The investigation into the İzmir Metropolitan Municipality and the Karabağlar Municipality is being coordinated by prosecutors Fatih Genç, Ahmet Türkoğlu, Ali Çelik and Birol Çengil. There are currently 205 suspects in the investigation.
İzmir Mayor Aziz Kocaoğlu spoke to reporters about the investigation on Tuesday and said he was ready to be called to account if prosecutors detect corruption or irregularities in the transactions of his metropolitan municipality. “Set my colleagues and friends [who are in police custody] free. Call me to account over any irregularity,” the mayor said, addressing police.
The police search of CHP municipal offices in İzmir was met with criticism by the Justice and Development Party (AK Party). Former Transportation Minister Binali Yıldırım, who is also the AK Party's deputy candidate from İzmir, said the timing of the search is “thought provoking.” The search came only less than two months before the parliamentary elections, slated for June 12. Similarly, Parliament Speaker Mehmet Ali Şahin said the search elicited negative reactions from the public because it came shortly before the elections.
A report prepared by the Council of State stated that the İzmir Metropolitan Municipality was engaged in corruption of millions of liras over transactions of ESHOT, the transportation company of the municipality. According to the report, the municipality made the state lose millions of liras over the purchase of buses and employment of staff for ESHOT. The report belongs to 2009.
Submitting the report to the Interior Ministry, the Council of State asked for permission to launch an investigation into Kocaoğlu.