A company with close ties to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government stashed a great deal of money gained from public contracts in a secret Swiss bank account, a Turkish daily reported on Tuesday.
The revelation of the Swiss account was uncovered when one of the partners in the company filed a complaint in court claiming that he was cheated by his partners, who emptied the bank account without informing him.
According to the story published by the independent Taraf daily, the company, identified as the Ertuğrul Grup, a construction company owned by three cousins, Kemal E., Koray E. and Gıyasi Ö, has won major contracts from both government and AK Party-run municipalities over many years.
The total sum of contracts awarded to the company was estimated to be some $500 million. The company has won major contracts from the Ankara Metropolitan Municipality. As the company’s coffers were fattened with public contracts and tenders, the number of employees it hired also grew to some 1,000 people.
At one point, the cousins decided to open a secret, shared bank account in a Swiss bank that can only be accessed with at least two of the co-partners’ signatures. At first they put $9 million into the bank account, later adding more money until the amount in the account reached $15 million.
The daily reported that a disagreement arose among the partners and that one of them, Gıyasi Ö., wanted to leave the company. The other two partners made a deal to empty the
Swiss account without informing Gıyasi and had the money gradually transferred to an account in Turkey registered to the company’s secretary, Berna H. The company’s assets were also registered in Berna’s name without the knowledge of Gıyasi.
When Gıyasi went to court to sue his partners, the secret Swiss account was made public.
There are currently 20 separate legal disputes among the partners. One of the cases concerns loans which were taken out with forged signatures. It has been determined that the company took out a large number of loans using forged signatures after the cases were brought to court by Gıyasi.
The signatures given to apply for the loans turned out to be forgeries when they were examined by legal experts assigned by the court.
The daily claimed that the revelation of the secret Swiss account amid the dispute among the partners alarmed some officials in the ruling AK Party, who rushed to broker a deal among them to prevent fallout from the scandal.
The AK Party government was shaken with massive corruption allegations back in December that implicated senior officials within the party and the government. Four ministers had to resign after investigators found that they received huge sums of cash as bribes from Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab. The Dec. 25 investigation also involved allegations that the government of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan received kickbacks from companies that were awarded huge contracts and tenders to finance pro-government media.
In June, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu called on the prime minister to prove that he does not have any secret Swiss bank accounts. The CHP leader noted that Erdoğan allegedly has eight Swiss bank accounts.