Hell hath no fury like a Turk slighted: An acrimonious divorce has set off a political corruption scandal, Hugh Pope writes from Istanbul

SCANDALS in Turkey are usually like Istanbul summers: short, steamy and soon forgotten. But the Ergun Goknel divorce and kickback story has trained a spotlight as never before on the rotten ways of Turkish political life.

At first, the travails of the chief of Istanbul's Iski municipal water company seemed a low- key distraction for society pages usually devoted to the gold-spangled weddings, night-clubbing and conspicuous consumption of the nouveau riche elite. Turks have also become accustomed, since Ottoman times, to tales of corruption and intrigue. But the Goknel affair may show that there is a limit, and the media are in full cry for change.

The story began when Mr Goknel, a gregarious figure in his fifties, ditched his spouse to marry a secretary 29 years his junior. To placate his angry wife, he paid her pounds 500,000 in cash and gave her a house and car. But it was not enough. She spilt the beans, pointing out that there could be no legitimate source for the money. She accused him of accepting all kinds of kickbacks, prompting the mayor who gave him his job, Nurettin Sozen, to sack him while he was on honeymoon in East Asia. Mr Goknel responded by accusing everybody of being in it with him, right up to the leader of his Social Democratic Populist Party, Erdal Inonu, who is also Deputy Prime Minister.

The fraud squad moved in, finding papers in Mr Goknel's flat that allegedly implied systematic extortion from municipal contractors and, apparently, regular 'salaries' for a Social Democrat minister and 29 journalists.

There was more to come. Newspapers were soon publishing police tapes of conversations in which one of Mr Goknel's sons accused his father of stealing 'the camel and its load . . . he never gave us anything. Once he brought some trousers from Europe, but he even wanted the money for them.'

Gungor Mengi, of the daily Sabah, said: 'If there is corruption, there cannot be justice . . . In societies where corruption has become a semi-official tax, why is there terrorism and torture? . . . (because) it's all part of the same dirty circle.'

Corruption is rampant in the Istanbul municipality. The Bosporus is supposed to be a protected area of natural beauty, but somehow the banks of the entire strait are turning into an elongated Hong Kong of concrete.

In Turkey, however, things are often not what they seem. Corruption is usually only a matter of smoothing one's path, adding an overall cost of just 2 per cent, according to one big importer. And ironically, some payments asked for by Mr Goknel seem to have been made to charities doing work the municipality itself did not have the money to do. Others were made to support the Social Democrat party as business donations.

The Prime Minister, Tansu Ciller, has promised a clean-up, saying 'the belief that bribery and corruption is widespread in Turkey is rightly entrenched in the minds of the Turkish people'. Mrs Ciller should know. It is an open secret that the press is building up files on her and her ex-banker husband relating to property speculation and a bank collapse in the 1980s. The propriety of these dealings is still winding its way through the Turkish judicial system.

The one sure loser is Mrs Goknel. She will have to surrender a big chunk of her ill-gotten alimony to the Treasury, which has discovered that she is liable for capital transfer tax.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
Google celebrates the 126th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower opening its doors to the public for the first time
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
News
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
Life and Style
Baroness Lane-Fox warned that large companies such as have become so powerful that governments and regulators are left behind
techTech giants have left governments and regulators behind
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
music
Sport
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin visits her 1990s work ‘My Bed’ at Tate Britain in London, where it is back on display from today
artsBut how does the iconic work stand up, 16 years on?
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Web Designer / Front End Developer

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast expanding web managem...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor