Turkey: Erdogan and his wife are being investigated over alleged ties to ‘fake news’

By Sara B. Jones and Sara L. Smith-DworetchikNovember 21, 2017, 8:17:14Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s wife, Fatma, and her son, Mehmet, have been charged with fraud for allegedly accepting tens of millions of dollars in foreign cash, a Turkish prosecutor said.

Erdogan’s son-in-law, a former Turkish police chief, and a former official at the state-owned Turkish Oil Corporation (TOLC), who had a stake in the company, have also been arrested.

A TOLC official, Yayla Dalka, has also been charged, Turkish media reported.

The accusations against the two are part of a wider investigation launched by the Justice and Development (AK) Party (AKP) into whether the couple have violated Turkey’s electoral laws by buying and selling public contracts.

The charges against the sons-in and daughters-in were revealed on Friday as prosecutors announced that the investigation into the alleged misuse of public funds was widening.

A statement from the prosecutor’s office said the case “could lead to more than a dozen additional charges” against the defendants.

The investigation into alleged irregularities in the awarding of public contracts has also widened to include payments made to two companies owned by Mehmet Erdogan and Fatma Erdogan, the statement said.

The prosecutor’s statement said the two businessmen are also being investigated for “illegal payments to political parties and other entities for work in the construction sector, construction services, and construction of a hospital.”

The prosecutors also said the businessmen and the women allegedly used the funds for their own personal expenses.

The two businessmen, Mehmin Kocak and Ismet Akif, were arrested at their home in Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport on Tuesday.

An AKP official told Reuters news agency on Wednesday that they would not comment on the allegations.

Turkey’s Justice and Construction Ministry confirmed the arrests on Wednesday, saying it was part of the wider investigation into fraud and irregularities in government procurement.

The ministry has been investigating the alleged fraud since July, and the case was opened in January, but it had not been publicly disclosed until now.

The Turkish government has been trying to find out why the women were able to buy more than $1 billion in contracts worth billions of dollars, including construction work, power transmission and energy and water infrastructure projects.

The indictment says the women “conspired to purchase these contracts in order to enrich themselves,” and were “obtained from the Turkish public through fraud, by illegal means, by deceitful means and by using fraudulent information.”

The statement from prosecutors said Mehmet and Fatima Erdogan allegedly used their position as governors of TOLCs to enrich their companies by “using and manipulating the procurement of public works contracts.”

It said the alleged bribes totaled about $1.8 billion.

The TOLCo had not responded to requests for comment.

The alleged bribery, the prosecutor added, was not a result of an actual fraud, but instead “a coverup of the fraud.”

It also alleged that Mehmet’s son, a senior police official, and former director of the Istanbul Police, also allegedly used his positions in the police force to receive bribes.

The pair “used their positions to obtain bribes of tens of million of dollars,” the statement read.

In a statement on Wednesday morning, the TOL said: “The allegations of illegal actions, which we have received from the Justice Ministry, are totally unfounded.”

The ministry said it would be “premature to comment further” on the charges against Mehmet.

Meanwhile, the Turkish government and the state news agency Anadolu reported that Mehmed Erdogan, Mehmut Kocach, and their sons had been placed under investigation for “the unlawful acquisition of public projects and contracts.”

In the statement, the ministry said Mehmed and Fatman Erdogan “have been accused of illegally acquiring public works projects, as well as other contracts.”

The two sons were accused of “using their positions in police, justice, and national defense bodies to receive millions of Turkish Lira (EUR 1.8 million) and other public money through fraudulent means,” the ministry added.

The minister said Mehmmed and his son have been ordered to appear in court on November 22.

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