A son of the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is under investigation in Italy for money laundering, in connection, it has been claimed, with the 2013 corruption scandal that rocked the Turkish political establishment.
The Bologna public prosecutor has opened a file on Bilal Erdogan, 35, after a key opponent of the Turkish regime officially denounced the president’s son, alleging he brought in large amounts of money to Italy last September to be recycled. The claim was made by the political dissident and Turkish businessman Murat Hakan Uzan, whose brother Cem Uzan founded Turkey’s Youth Party.
The Italian Manuela Cavallo is investigating claims that the money may relate to the massive political corruption scandal involving Turkey’s ruling AKP party. Bilal Erdogan has said he is in Italy with his wife and children purely to resume his PhD studies at the Bologna campus of America’s Johns Hopkins University, which he began in 2007.
In 2013 his name surfaced in the massive graft scandal that hit the AKP and senior Turkish government officials. Turkish prosecutors said it involved an alleged money laundering scheme designed to bypass United States-led sanctions on Iran. They ordered the arrest of 52 people in December 2013 and went on to accuse 14 people – including several family members of cabinet ministers – of bribery, corruption, fraud, money laundering and gold smuggling.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan's most controversial quotes
Recep Tayyip Erdogan's most controversial quotes
1/8 The Turkish President's craziest quotes
Just a week before he was elected President, he called Erdogan Amberin Zaman, the Turkey correspondent for 'The Economist', a "shameless militant woman disguised under the name of a journalist" after she had asked an opposition leader whether "Muslim society is able to question" the authorities. "Know your place," Erdoğan said. "They gave you a pen and you are writing a column in a newspaper. "And then they invite you to a TV channel owned by Doğan media group and you insult at a society of 99 per cent Muslims," he said he said according to Today's Zaman newspaper.
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2/8 The Turkish President's craziest quotes
Turkish people are pictured chanting slogans during an anti-government protest on Taksim square in Istanbul, on 29 June, 2013. The protests were sparked by brutal police action against a local conservation battle to save Istanbul's Gezi Park, and soon turned into nationwide demonstrations against the government. Amid the protests - the worst in Turkey for years - Erdogan accused demonstrators of being "arm-in-arm with terrorism," according to Reuters. "This is a protest organized by extremist elements. We will not give away anything to those who live arm-in-arm with terrorism," he said.
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3/8 The Turkish President's craziest quotes
During last year’s protests, activists used social media to organise and disseminate information. Several dozen tweeters were arrested following the protests, according to local media reports. Erdogan responded by calling the technology a "menace". "There is now a menace which is called Twitter," Erdogan said. "The best examples of lies can be found there. To me, social media is the worst menace to society," BBC New reported.
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4/8 The Turkish President's craziest quotes
Not helping to allay accusations of authoritarianism, after Turkish police detained 49 people, including well-known business people and those close to the ruling party, Erdeogan ominously told reporter that Turkey "is not a banana republic" that can be affected by unnamed "operations", according to Today's Zaman newspaper. “People who are backed by the media and certain funders cannot change this country," he said. "People backed by certain dark gangs both inside and outside Turkey cannot mess with the country's path. They cannot change conditions in Turkey. Turkey is not a country that anyone can launch an operation into. The [Turkish] nation will not allow that. The AK Party, which is governing this nation, will not allow this."
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5/8 The Turkish President's craziest quotes
Friends and relatives of the miners who died in an explosion at the Soma mine are pictured praying following the burial in Soma cemetery of the last body to be recovered from the mine in May 2014. At the time, the then-Prime Minister badly misjudged the Soma mining disaster, in which 301 workers died. He told the relatives of dead and dying miners that "these types of incidents are ordinary things", following allegations that the government had ignored safety concerns about the privately owned mine, the Guardian reported. In his defence, Erdogan recounted in a separate speech a list of mining disasters which occurred abroad, including a British disaster in 1862, and one in America "which has every kind of technology".
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6/8 The Turkish President's craziest quotes
Palestinians pictured attending Friday noon prayers in a destroyed mosque that was hit by Israeli strikes, in Gaza City. As Prime Minister, Erdogan has condemned Israel, accusing it of deliberately killing Palestinian mothers and warned that the it would "drown in the blood it sheds." Speaking to thousands of supporters during a rally in Istanbul ahead of the 10 August election, Reuters reported him as saying: "Just like Hitler, who sought to establish a race free of all faults, Israel is chasing after the same target." "They kill women so that they will not give birth to Palestinians; they kill babies so that they won't grow up; they kill men so they can't defend their country ... They will drown in the blood they shed," he said.
7/8 The Turkish President's craziest quotes
Amid the worst protests in Turkey for years which had spread across dozens of cities last June, Erdogan accused demonstrators of being "arm-in-arm with terrorism," according to Reuters. A demonstration to halt construction in a park in an Istanbul square grew into mass protests against a heavy-handed police crackdown and what opponents called Erdogan's authoritarian policies. "This is a protest organized by extremist elements," Erdogan said before departing on a trip to North Africa. "We will not give away anything to those who live arm-in-arm with terrorism," he said.
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8/8 The Turkish President's craziest quotes
In March 2014, Erdogan accused a 15-year-old boy who died from injuries sustained in last year's anti-government protests of being linked to terrorism. Berkin Elvan, who became a symbol of anti-government protests, had gone to pick up bread when he was hit with a teargas canister - sending him into a nine-month coma before he passed away. In a speech broadcast on state TV, Erdogan said of Berkin: "This kid with steel marbles in his pockets, with a slingshot in his hand, his face covered with a scarf, who had been taken up into terror organisations, was unfortunately subjected to pepper gas. “How could the police determine how old that person was who had a scarf on his face and was hurling steel marbles with a slingshot in his hand?”
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The whistleblowers who tipped off the police claimed that the son of the then Prime Minister (now President) Recep Tayyip Erdogan was next in line for questioning.
The subsequent release on YouTube of audio recordings in which President Erdogan was allegedly heard telling his son to urgently get rid of tens of millions of dollars ignited a political firestorm. Mr Erdogan has claimed the recordings were falsified but some experts have contradicted this. Both the Erdogans have denied any wrongdoing regarding the 2013 scandal.
President Erdogan even claimed that a coup attempt was under way and reacted to the accusations by dismissing police officers, prosecutors and judges.
In the complaint filed this week with the Bologna prosecutor by Mr Uzan’s lawyer, Massimiliano Annetta, it is claimed that €1bn (£779m) is still unaccounted for as a result of the corruption, according to reports.
Mr Uzan, who is currently in exile in France, also quoted anti-Erdogan dissidents as claiming that the president’s son flew to Italy in September with a large sum of money as part of a “getaway operation”. Last October, soon after Bilal Erdogan’s arrival in Bologna, the anonymous Turkish whistleblower known in the media as Fuat Avni, who has been a thorn in the side of the Erdogan government, claimed on Twitter that Bilal went to Italy with large amounts of cash, saying: “They [the Erdogan family] are planning to keep Bilal in Italy until the [November] election. They will determine whether he will be coming back according to the situation after the election.”
According to the news agency Ansa, Ms Cavallo is also investigating claims that Bilal arrived in Bologna with an attachment of armed bodyguards who initially were not allowed into the country, until within a matter of hours they were issued with Turkish diplomatic passports.
Giovanni Trombini, a Bologna-based lawyer representing Bilal, acknowledged that a criminal investigation involving his client had been opened but told The Independent that he was not prepared to comment until the exact nature of the accusations against his client were clear. The Bologna prosecutor was not available for comment.Reuse content