Turkish court orders main opposition leader to pay damages for claims of ‘illicit money’ transactions by Erdoğan

A Turkish court in İstanbul on Tuesday ordered Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu to pay damages for a statement claiming that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s family hid money offshore in the Isle of Man.

The İstanbul court sentenced Kılıçdaroğlu to pay 130,000 Turkish lira in damages to President Erdoğan for his statements on illicit money transfers made by Erdoğan and his family members.

According to a report by the pro-government Hürriyet Daily News, there are now four separate suits seeking damages from Kılıçdaroğlu on the same claims targeting Erdoğan and his relatives, with the amount of compensation demanded currently totaling 828,000 Turkish lira. Kılıçdaroğlu has had to pay Erdoğan and family members 1,140,000 Turkish lira in other rulings.

The CHP leader made accusations and presented receipts for transactions in a speech at his party’s group meeting in November 2017.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) first claimed that the receipts were fake, then the CHP leader handed over the documents to the Ankara prosecutor. The prosecution had ruled the receipts were valid, but the file was closed because there was no “illicit money.”

Kılıçdaroğlu had documented in November 2017 that Erdoğan’s family members transferred millions of dollar to a foreign company on the Isle of Man. Kılıçdaroğlu’s revelations at the CHP’s parliamentary group meeting came after an exchange of words between Erdoğan and the CHP over the offshore accounts of Erdoğan’s family members.

CHP leader Kılıçdaroğlu had shared with the public the SWIFT codes and transfer receipts for $13,750,000 sent by Erdoğan’s brother, son, brother-in-law and principal clerk to the Isle of Mann.

Addressing Erdoğan before revealing the documents Kılıçdaroğlu had said, “I know you are listening to me. Have a doctor by your side.”

Concerning the money transfers allegedly made by members of the Erdoğan family, Kılıçdaroğlu had said:

  • A company was founded on August 1, 2011 on the Isle of Man. It is a very tiny island. We have the document for the foundation of that company. This company held an executive board meeting on August 2. The board consists of Sıtkı Ayan.
  • On November 15, 2011, he handed over this company to Kasım Öztaş. Do you know who Sıtkı Ayan is? Do you know who Kasım Öztaş is?
  • On December 15, 2011, Erdoğan’s brother-in-law Ziya İlgen sent $2,5 million to this company.
  • On December 15, 2011, Erdoğan’s brother Mustafa Erdoğan sent $2,5 million to this company.
  • On December 26, 2011, Ziya İlgen sent $1,250,000 to this company.
  • On December 27, 2011, Erdoğan’s father-in-law Osman Ketenci sent $1,250,000. His principal clerk Mustafa Gündoğan sent $1,250,000.
  • On December 29, 2011, his son Ahmet Burak Erdoğan sent $1,450,000, and $2,300,000 on January 4, 2012.

“They may ask whether these allegations have documents? We have all the SWIFT codes for these transfers. What does a SWIFT code mean? When you transfer money abroad, you do that via this code,” Kılıçdaroğlu said and added: “I said these are not sufficient, I need bank receipts. They may claim that these documents are fake. All these are official bank records. They transfer the money abroad and these are also in the records of those companies. You will do what you have to if you are a man of dignity.”

“We have the the SWIFT documents for these transactions. … We also have bank receipts,” Kılıçdaroğlu added amid chants of “Erdoğan resign” from attendees at the group meeting. “We have all the records of this company,” Kılıçdaroğlu said. “We also have all the documents of the financial transactions.”

Kılıçdaroğlu said that Bellway Limited was founded on Aug. 1, 2011, with Sıtkı Ayan as its sole board member and “one pound sterling in founding capital.” “There are official records showing that it belongs to him both from Turkey and from the Isle of Man,” he said, adding that the company was transferred to Kazım Öztaş on Nov. 15, 2011.

Ayan had come to the attention of Turkey when a voice recording was leaked to the Internet in 2014. In the alleged phone conversation between then-Prime Minister Erdoğan and his son Bilal Erdoğan that was uploaded to YouTube in 2014, Erdoğan allegedly tells Bilal to reject $10 million from Ayan, the owner of Som Petrol, which had been granted tax-free incentives by the government to build new oil pipelines from Iran, saying that the amount was too low.

“Don’t take it. Whatever he has promised us, he should bring this. If he is not going to bring it, there is no need,” the alleged voice of Erdoğan says.

“The others are bringing it. Why can’t he? What do they think this business is? … But don’t worry, they will fall into our lap,” the voice says.

The tension between the Erdoğan government and main opposition CHP had escalated once again after Kılıçdaroğlu accused Erdoğan and his family of having offshore bank accounts worth of millions of dollars last week.

Following Paradise Papers revelations that Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım’s sons had invested in tax-haven Malta, Kılıçdaroğlu in a speech on Nov. 21 asked questions of Erdoğan: “Dear Erdoğan, do you know that your children, your brother-in-law, the father-in-law of your [son], your brother and your former principal clerk have sent millions of dollars to a tax haven?”

“Dear Erdoğan, you speak well, influence people, play with all of their values, politicize all their values, trying, by all means, to stay in power. I am asking a simple question to you [Erdoğan]. Have your children sent a million dollars abroad?” Kılıçdaroğlu had added.

Erdoğan had filed a lawsuit against Kılıçdaroğlu for TL 1,5 million in non-pecuniary damages for insulting himself and his family.

Erdoğan repeated his challenge to Kılıçdaroğlu to either prove his claims or resign from his position, vowing to do the same if the CHP leader could prove that he or his family members have money abroad. “He made such claims in the past and probably will repeat them again. Can he prove these with documents? No,” he said.

“If Tayyip Erdoğan has a single penny abroad, he should prove it. If proven, I will not stay in this presidential post for even one minute,” Erdoğan had said on Nov. 26. “In which offshore bank does Tayyip Erdoğan have an account? Prove it. If you cannot prove it, you yourself will have to quit politics. If you do, I will quit politics and my post in the presidency,” he added.

“I have proven it, now tell me who is disreputable … If you are a man of honor, you will do what is necessary. Full stop,” Kılıçdaroğlu said.

Meanwhile, President Erdoğan had accused the CHP of becoming Turkey’s “main treason party,” blasting its leader Kılıçdaroğlu as “discredited” and “extremely confused.” “It’s very unfortunate to observe the CHP rapidly sliding into the status of the main treason party because of this person [Kılıçdaroğlu],” Erdoğan said in a weekly address to his ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) parliamentary group on Tuesday.

Ahmet Özel, a lawyer for President Erdoğan, had also claimed the documents publicized on Nov. 28 by CHP leader Kılıçdaroğlu on offshore accounts linked to Erdoğan were “fake,” describing the allegations as “lies.” Özel had also urged Kılıçdaroğlu to “immediately” hand the documents to the prosecutor’s office and file a criminal complaint if necessary.

AKP deputy Metin Külünk said Kılıçdaroğlu had become a national security issue. “Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and the CHP have become a national security issue for Turkey. It must be evaluated at the National Security Council meeting,” Külünk tweeted on Tuesday. Külünk also accused Kılıçdaroğlu of “acting with the Gülen movement” and “betraying Turkey.”

Moreover, speaking to Russia’s Sputnik News, AKP group deputy chair Naci Bostancı had said, “He is shaking some documents, but we don’t know what they are.”

Giving an interview to Erdoğan’s propaganda mouthpiece aHaber TV, Bülent Turan, the AKP’s other group deputy chair, had claimed that Kılıçdaroğlu presented official transactions as documents and urged him to resign.

It was also reported that the state-run TRT cut its live broadcast as Kılıçdaroğlu started to present the documents concerning President Erdoğan’s family and acquaintances transferring money abroad.

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