Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has called for a “joint struggle” against bribery and corruption in Turkey, asking Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım to account for “gold trade irregularity that happened in 2013.”
“Mr. Yıldırım, you are the prime minister of the country. Gold came into the country in counterfeit ways and 292 kg of it was stolen or brought into Turkey in illegitimate ways. Start the investigation from here,” Kılıçdaroğlu said on Dec. 11, speaking at parliament at this year’s annual budget talks.
Kılıçdaroğlu reserved most of his budget speech for bribery and corruption allegations directed at the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which have been on the agenda as Iranian-Turkish gold-trader Reza Zarrab has been appearing in a New York case as a key witness.
Zarrab testified and confessed that he bribed former ministers and state bank officials in a scheme on evading U.S. sanctions on Iran.
The Iranian-Turkish gold trader was also the subject of a massive corruption investigation targeting ruling AKP officials in December 2013, which was subsequently quashed by the government, and CHP head Kılıçdaroğlu urged the government to re-open the case.
He particularly referred to a customs investigation dated Jan. 1, 2013 in which a cargo plane from Ghana arrived at Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport and the customs report stated that it held 1.5 tons of natural stone.
“Custom officers investigated the import and saw that the ‘natural stone’ was actually 1.5 tons of gold,” Kılıçdaroğlu said.
He accused Zarrab of attempting to bribe customs officers and recalled that then Customs and Trade Minister Hayati Yazıcı initiated an investigation into the incident. The investigation report issued in December 2013 indicated that 292 kilograms of 1.5 tons of gold have been smuggled in Turkey, he added.
“The gold that came to Turkey was 1.5 tons. But when it was taken out of Turkey, 292 kilograms of gold, worth $14.6 million, was somehow smuggled into Turkey without any customs transaction,” Kılıçdaroğlu stated.
Referring to the investigation report, the CHP head asked about the 292 kilograms of gold, citing the address of the initial receiver of the trade.
“Those 292 kilograms of gold. Where did it go? It is not me telling the worth of it, it is the state inspector,” Kılıçdaroğlu added.
He vowed that the CHP is willing to lend support if parliament initiates any investigative process on the corruption cases.
“Our parliamentary group is ready. Let’s clean it all together,” Kılıçdaroğlu said.
He also pointed to possible “fictitious exports” in official figures.
“They say they had made exports of food. Apparently they buy wheat from Dubai but Dubai doesn’t even have wheat,” he said.
“They export 150,000 tons of wheat but the ship that makes this export has a capacity of 5,000 tons,” he added.
“This fraud has come to the surface and fictitious exports should be investigated,” Kılıçdaroğlu said.