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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Your picture is everything in the shallow world of online dating
i100
News
The Swiss Re tower or 'Gherkin' was at one time the UK’s most expensive office when German bank IVG and private equity firm Evans Randall bought it
news
Life and Style
Attractive women on the Internet: not a myth
techOkCupid boasts about Facebook-style experiments on users
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Reconciliation Analyst

£200 - £250 per day: Orgtel: Reconciliation Analyst Gloucestershire

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on