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Türkiye - Corruption

Corruption is perceived to be a problem in Türkiye by private enterprise and the public at large, particularly in government procurement. American companies operating in Türkiye have complained about being solicited, with varying degrees of pressure, by municipal or local authorities for "contributions to the community". Parliament continues to probe corruption allegations involving senior officials in previous governments, particularly in connection with energy projects.

Media reports from the 1990s, which alleged ties between high-ranking government officials and criminals. Politically motivated assassinations and the disappearance of certain individuals during this era are thought to have been orchestrated by criminal organizations. Turkish media outlets referred to this shady network as a kind of "deep state." More recently, a range of far-right mafia figures have been found to have links to powerful government officials. In April 2020, right-wing extremist mafia boss Alaattin Cakici was released from jail due to an amnesty law. Some 90,000 inmates — including numerous violent criminals like Cakici — were freed because of the pandemic. Incarcerated journalists and dissidents, however, were not.

The government never managed to distance itself from the mafia. In 2020 Turkish mafia boss Sedat Peker made serious accusations against leading government lawmakers. He published five videos on YouTube in which he claims that high-profile politicians from Türkiye's ruling AKP party are involved in serious crimes. The clips, which went viral and were making headlines, claim leading lawmakers were involved in malfeasance, murders, rapes, drug trafficking and other illicit practices. The Mafioso claims Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu tipped him off that authorities were on his case, allowing him to flee Türkiye and escape prosecution — an allegation that has put the minister under considerable pressure.

Two indictments in Turkish courts between December 17-25, 2013, accusing a number of businessmen and high-level officials of “bribery, misconduct in office, collusive tendering and smuggling.” Reza Zarrab, four former ministers of government, sons of three of those ministers, bureaucrats and a general manager of state-run Halkbank were among those people. Zarrab was a key figure in a 2013 Turkish corruption scandal in which he allegedly bribed four ministers to facilitate sanctions-busting trade and other deals.

Mehmet Hakan Atilla, a 47-year-old deputy general manager at Türkiye's state-run Halkbank, was charged by US authorities with taking part in a complex scheme in which Iran traded its oil and gas for gold and food. Some of the proceeds were allegedly moved through US financial institutions without their knowledge, thereby contravening sanctions. These sanctions state that "foreign-based financial institutions or subsidiaries that deal with sanctioned banks are barred from conducting deals in the United States or with the US dollar".

Former deputy CEO of Turkish public bank Halkbank Mehmet Hakan Atilla became the only defendant in the case, after Reza Zarrab, who was the prime defendant, pleaded guilty and testified as a witness against the former banker, accusing him of the related crimes. The case dates back to March 2016 when US authorities arrested the Iranian-Turkish businessman Reza Zarrab for breaching US sanctions on Iran.

Zarrab’s testimony implicated former Turkish ministers and even President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the scheme, and identified 47-year-old Atilla as a key organiser. Zarrab also said he paid tens of millions of dollars' worth of bribes to then economy minister, Zaref Caglayan, to facilitate illegal gold transactions with Iran.

Ankara slammed as meddling in its own affairs a New York court ruling 04 January 2018 that convicted a Turkish banker in connection with a massive scheme to help Iran evade US sanctions. Mehmet Hakan Atilla, an executive at Türkiye's majority state-owned Halkbank, was convicted on five of six counts he faced, including bank fraud and conspiracy to violate US sanctions law, in a Manhattan federal court on Wednesday.

"It is an unjust and unfortunate development that Halkbank Deputy General Manager Mehmet Hakan Atilla was found guilty," Türkiye's foreign ministry said in a statement. "The US court, in a process carried out by relying on so-called 'evidence', which is fake and open to political exploitation ... made an unprecedented interference in Türkiye's internal affairs."

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said the decision was clear evidence that the United States, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had co-operated with the network of Fetullah Gulen, which is known as FETO (Fetullah Terrorist Organisation), the network that orchestrated the failed July 2016 coup.

Public procurement reforms were designed to make procurement more transparent and less susceptible to political interference, including through the establishment of an independent public procurement board with the power to void contracts. With regard to the WTO Government Procurement Agreement, Türkiye is not yet a signatory, although it has maintained observer status for over a decade. The judicial system is also perceived to be susceptible to external influence and to be biased against outsiders to some degree.

Turkish legislation outlaws bribery and some prosecutions of government officials for corruption have taken place, but enforcement is uneven. Türkiye ratified the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Public Officials, and passed implementing legislation in January 2003, to provide that bribes of foreign officials, as well as domestic, are illegal and not tax deductible. In 2006, Türkiye's parliament ratified the UN Convention Against Corruption.

Türkiye's Criminal Code makes it unlawful to promise or to give any advantage to foreign government officials in exchange for their assistance in providing improper advantage in the conduct of international business. In the event that such a crime makes an unlawful benefit to a legal entity, such legal entity shall be subject to certain security measures. The provisions of the Criminal Law regarding the bribing of foreign governmental officials are in line with the provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 of the United States (the "FCPA").

There are, however, a number of differences between Turkish law and the FCPA. For example, there is not an exception under the Turkish law for payments to facilitate or expedite performance of a "routine governmental action" in terms of the FCPA. Another difference between the provisions of the FCPA and Turkish law is that the FCPA does not provide for punishment of imprisonment, while the Turkish law provides a punishment of imprisonment from four years to 12 years. The Prime Ministry's Inspection Board, which advises a new Corruption Investigations Committee, is responsible for investigating major corruption cases. Nearly every state agency has its own inspector corps responsible for investigating internal corruption. The parliament can establish investigative commissions to examine corruption allegations concerning cabinet ministers for the Prime Minister. A majority vote is needed to send these cases to the Supreme Court for further action.

The GOT has adopted policies and laws that in principle should foster competition and transparency. However, foreign companies in several sectors claim that regulations are sometimes applied in a nontransparent manner. Türkiye is an observer, but not a member, to the WTO Government Procurement Committee.

Turkish legislation generally requires competitive bidding procedures in the public sector. A Public Procurement board exists to oversee public tenders, and there are minimum bidding thresholds under which foreign companies are prohibited from bidding on public tenders. The law gives preference to domestic bidders, Turkish citizens, and legal entities established by them, as well as to corporate entities established under Turkish law by foreign companies. The public procurement law has been amended eight times since its enactment and may be further amended in the future: it has been cited by the EU as not being in conformity with the EU "acquis communautaire" or body of law.

Transparency International has an affiliated NGO in Istanbul. Transparency International (TI) noted that Türkiye showed a significant reduction in perceived levels of corruption in 2008 and moved Türkiye from 66th to 58th in the transparency ranking of 180 countries.

Turkish police had detained dozens of people in Istanbul and Ankara by December 19, 2013 as part of a high-level corruption probe into alleged bribery connected to public tenders. The move was widely interpreted as a challenge to the authority of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Istanbul’s police chief Huseyin Capkin was dismissed in the latest fallout from one of Türkiye's largest-ever judicial probes into government corruption. The sons of senior ministers, including the Interior Minister, were detained, as were numerous high-level bureaucrats, and dozens of senior police officers have been fired or reassigned. The investigation centers on the alleged laundering of money from Iran to circumvent international sanctions on Tehran, and alleged bribery in the awarding of state contracts for land development.

Cengiz Aktar of the Istanbul Policy Group think tank says the investigation is one most serious in the country’s history. "It's revolutionary; nothing of the kind happened in this country before. Of course, corruptions always existed like everywhere in the world. But the scale and the persons involved, indicted - it's unique," said Aktar.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is taking a robust stand against the investigation, claiming it is part of a conspiracy against his government. "There is a very dirty operation here,” Erdogan said Thursday. "Some circles inside and outside of Türkiye are seeking to hinder Türkiye from its rapid growth." Observers say the prime minister sees a powerful Islamist movement led by the cleric Fethullah Gulen as being behind the probe. Gulen's followers are widely believed to be influential both in the judiciary and the police. But Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in the United States, denies the accusation. He was once a strong backer of the Islamist-rooted ruling AK Party, particularly in its struggle against the once-dominant army. But tensions have been on the rise in the last 18 months.

Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan and Interior Minister Muammer Guler stepped down December 25, 2013. Their sons were among 24 people arrested the previous week on graft charges. Türkiye's environment minister, Erdogan Bayraktar, also announced he was stepping down. Erdogan announced he was appointing 10 new ministers to replace the three who quit and others planning mayoral runs in local elections in March 2014.

Türkiye’s main pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, normally a critic of Erdogan, had been reticent in criticizing the government. In February 2014 BDP parliamentary deputy Sirri Sakik even played down the corruption allegations. Sakik said he did not care very much about the corruption issue, adding "If the money is not stolen that way, it would be stolen in some other way."

A Turkish parliamentary commission voted on 05 January 2015 not to send four former ministers accused in a corruption investigation to the Supreme Court for trial, effectively backing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after the December 2013 scandal that had rattled his inner circle.

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Page last modified: 07-07-2022 18:50:59 ZULU