Sixteen people, including the sons of two cabinet ministers, were added on Saturday to a lengthening list of those arrested as investigations for corruption continue.
Along with the sons of internal affairs and economy ministers, the general manager of state-owned lender, Halkbank, was also among those detained on Saturday as part of the graft investigation.
This arrests brings the total number of suspects detained as part of the probe to 24, the news service said, including various well-known businessmen and bureaucrats such as the chief executive of Halkan, Suleyman Aslan and Ali Agaoglu, a renowned construction tycoon.
Mayor of Istanbul district Fatih, Mustafa Demirand, who was previously detained, and son of the Environment and Urban Planning Minister have been released under judicial supervision, and are barred from going abroad and have to show up at a police station once a week.
The suspects are accused of accepting and facilitating corruption in tenders, money laundering and bribery to secure construction permits for protected areas, the Turkish media reported. Cash money of $4.5m had been seized at Aslan’s house at the raids.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday warned some foreign ambassadors he might expel them over “provocative actions,” amid mounting tensions over the anti-graft probe.
“Some ambassadors are engaged in provocative actions,” Erdogan said in televised remarks in the Black Sea city of Samsun. “We don’t have to keep you in our country”.
He did not name the countries whose ambassadors he accused.
The investigation, seen by analysts to be symptomatic of growing tensions between Erdogan and Fethullah Gulen, an influential US-based cleric, has turned into one of the the biggest challenges facing the decade-long rule of the Development and Justice Party (AKP).
Gulen cursed those responsible for the purging of police officers involved in the case.
“Those who don’t see the thief but go after those trying to catch the thief, who don’t see the murder but try to defame others by accusing innocent people – let God bring fire to their houses, ruin their homes, break their unities,” Gulen said in a recording uploaded to one of his websites on Friday.
Gulen’s words, invoking God’s punishment, eliminate the abating of political tensions between him and Erdogan’s AKP.
The tensions stem from the government’s plans to abolish private prep schools that prepare students for the Turkish central university exam. Gulen owns a large network of such schools.
The government has retaliated to the probe, described by Erdogan as a “dirty operation” intending to smear his administration, by sacking tens of senior police commissioners from their positions in the Turkish National Police headquarters in the country’s main cities.