Erdoğan’s days as mayor of Istanbul marked by pervasive corruption, fraud

Islamist Welfare (Refah) Party members were seen posing for a photo in 1994 when their candidate Recep Tayyip Erdoğan won the Istanbul mayoral election.

Abdullah Bozkurt


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan raised money through corruption and the rigging of tenders to launch his political party when he was mayor of Istanbul, Turkey’s most populous city, in the 1990s, documents have revealed.

Interior ministry investigative reports and multiple criminal indictments filed by prosecutors against Erdoğan and his associates show that the suspects were accused of establishing a criminal enterprise, embezzling public funds, corruption, fraud, abuse of power, forgery of official documents, perjury and other crimes.

Senior municipal officials were the subjects of two criminal indictments drafted on March 12, 2002 by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Eyup district office prosecutor. As a result of internal investigations by interior ministry inspectors into the allegations, 16 municipal officials were removed from their jobs on March 29, 2002.


Preliminary investigative report by the interior ministry identified 64 people in the municipality involved in corruption schemes:



The reports on criminal allegations show that Erdoğan and his associates had devised various schemes including setting up front companies to divert municipal funds and enrich businesspeople who were close to the Islamist Welfare Party, which had controlled the municipality since 1994. They also revealed practices employed by Erdoğan to hire people with political Islamist backgrounds while sacking employees who were brought into the local government by his predecessors.

The reports explained that Erdoğan had been preparing to run for prime minister after serving as Istanbul mayor and needed funds to run his campaign as well as hire staff. So he siphoned off municipal funds through illegal means in 1994, 1995 and 1996. In total, 18 court cases were launched against Erdoğan, but he managed to save himself from legal troubles when he gained parliamentary immunity after his election as a lawmaker.


Interior ministry inspector urges removal of 16 of Erdogan’s associates on multiple charges including corruption, abuse of power and forgery:



Erdoğan had to leave office after he was convicted of incitement due to a fiery speech he gave in his wife’s home province of Siirt and sentenced to four months, 10 days in prison. The documents show Erdoğan managed to avoid corruption and embezzlement charges through the statute of limitations, which allowed the authorities only five years to pursue cases. For other charges, he had them fixed through loyalists he planted in the judiciary after he became prime minister and later president.



However, the same practices that had enriched Erdogan, his family and his associates were later used when he consolidated his power in government. The corruption investigations that were made public in December 2013 were a perfect example revealing how multi-billion-dollar schemes were envisaged for contracts and tenders by the Erdoğan government. As his wealth and assets had grown, Erdoğan purged some 30 percent of all judges and prosecutors (over 4,000 people) from the Turkish judiciary in order to secure his position and not allow any criminal cases to be launched against him, his family or business and political associates.


Charges filed against Erdogan and his associates at the Council of State:



Most associates who were investigated and tried in court as accomplices were later put into important positions in government when Erdoğan’s newly launched Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in November 2002.

Some of the people who faced investigations were Mustafa Açıkalın, Mesut Pektaş, İdris Naim Şahin, Şaban Erden, Ali Yılmaz, Nuriddin Dönmez, Hüseyin Gülsün, Yılmaz Şener, Temel Coşkun, Ahmet Önal, Ahmet Duran, Nihat Macit, Sabri Dereli, Ayşe Zuhal Sezen, Mikdat Yetim, Mehmet Ali Terlemez, Adem Baştürk, Ümit Özerol, Osman Yıldırak, Ali Rıza Kiremitçi, Hüseyin Akay, Sabri Dereli, Ali Yılmaz, Ali Çolak, Hüseyin Eren, Mustafa Öztürk, Necdet Berber and Sadık Karabıyık.


Four former ministers — Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan, Interior Minister Muammer Güler, European Union Affairs Minister Egemen Bağış and Environment and Urban Planning Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar — left their posts after they were implicated in a major corruption and bribery investigation that was revealed to the public in December 2013.

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