Police reveal footage as proof for alleged tender rigging

Ankara police on Friday shared footage showing businessmen and senior officials from the Public Procurement Authority (KİK) engaging in separate meetings during which they allegedly conspire to acquire large procurement tenders.

Turkey was introduced to an alleged scandal within KİK on Monday when Ankara police raided the offices of the institution and detained 22 people on charges of tender rigging. Police sources suspect KİK employees of having helped several companies win public tenders by issuing reports that favored them. Following the examination of documents, the police said the detained officials are suspected of having rigged some 100 public tenders with an estimated value of TL 1 billion ($560 million). It was also alleged that KİK officials and various businessmen had participated in special meetings and communicated by phone and email during the suspected tender processes.

Details in the footage, including the date on the video, indicate that the police have been conducting the investigation into KİK for more than two years.

An Ankara court on Thursday ordered 15 of the detainees, among them KİK officials and businessmen, to stand trial in connection with bid rigging in separate public procurement tenders. News reports on Friday also brought fresh details to light about the investigation, of which the Ankara Prosecutor’s Office is in charge. Police released a number of photos, video footage and documents showing packages containing money, watches and other “gifts” sent to former KİK Vice President Ali Kaya and KİK official Osman Turna. Police seized a package containing “gifts” that were sent by MASS Holding -- a firm allegedly involved in the tender rigging -- to a KİK official before it could reach the address in Ankara. Enclosed in the package, which read, “To Ali Bey” and “To Osman Bey” -- referring to Kaya and Turna -- was TL 5,000 in cash along with two luxury watches. The Taraf daily also cited the police reports, saying MASS Holding officials handed Kaya’s driver four cell phones to be delivered to the KİK official. Kaya is still in the hospital following a heart attack on Monday.

Meanwhile, details of the statement Turna gave during police questioning were published in the Taraf daily on Friday. According to the police interrogation records, a wastewater disposal project in Antalya in 2010, construction of a student dormitory and a road infrastructure project in İstanbul are some of the tenders that Turna allegedly prepared reports for in favor of certain firms. Police security cameras also caught Hasan K. from MASS and KİK official Şenol V. discussing what to say in their statements should they be called in for questioning. The two are seen discussing ways to remedy the situation just after police intercepted the delivery of MASS Holding’s package. Another police video shows businessmen Ferit R., who is currently sought by the police, entering the KİK headquarters with a bag -- allegedly containing bribe money -- in his hands. The Finance Ministry’s Financial Crimes Investigation Board (MASAK) is currently examining the financial assets of suspects and their relatives. Among the most striking details in the investigation is the alleged rigging of the Ankara-Konya highway construction tender, which Fermak A.Ş. won in 2009. In another detail, Kaya objects to a decision by the authority’s board to anonymously veto an appeal by the Torgem Gemi-Nursoy İnşaat joint venture for a tender to procure two ferries and construction of facilities for use of sea transport. The documents show Kaya expounding on the board’s decision, defending that the company had reason to appeal. In a written statement on the issue released on Thursday, KİK dismissed some of the reports claiming that the entire headquarters building had been searched, a weak response, some observers argued. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) has yet to make an official comment on the issue, while the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has accused the government of “opening the way for corruption.” Likewise, some observers drew attention to drawbacks in the laws regulating public procurements.

The government in 2010 introduced a strategy to combat corruption in cooperation with NGOs and firms, yet it is argued that little progress has been made since this move. The police clamping down on suspected corruption is, nevertheless, an opportunity to see this bleak picture change for the better, others have argued.

2012-02-17

Muhabir: Today’s Zaman with wires