Turkish judge probes PM ‘cash stash’ calls

Investigation launched after Erdogan says tapes allegedly catching him discussing hidden cash are “dirty” fabrication.

A judge in Turkey has launched an investigation into leaked recordings purportedly catching the Turkish prime minister discussing how to hide large sums of money with his son.

The inquiry was launched on Tuesday, a day after the tape was dismissed by the office of Recep Tayyip Erdogan as a “dirty” fabrication, but opposition parties have called on the government to resign.

It is not clear if the probe intitiated by the chief prosecutor on Tuesday was to determine authenticity or whether a possible criminal act had been committed by Erdogan.

The phone conversations, which circulated on the internet on Monday, allegedly reveal Erdogan asking his son Bilal to turn millions of dollars in cash stashed at several houses into “zero”.

“The recordings are the product of an immoral montage and completely untrue,” Erdogan’s office said in a statement on Monday.

“Those who created this dirty set-up targeting the prime minister of the Republic of Turkey will be held accountable within the law.”

Later, addressing members of the ruling AK Party in parliament on Tuesday, Erdogan said: “What was done is a vile … and a treacherous attack against the prime minister of the Republic of Turkey. It will not go unpunished.”

‘Blemish and burden’

Turkey’s main opposition party, the Republican People’s Party, held an emergency meeting late on Monday and called on Erdogan to resign, saying the government had lost its legitimacy.

“Turkey cannot carry on with this blemish and this burden,” Haluk Koc, senior party official, said.

Devlet Bahceli, the leader of Turkey’s far-right Nationalist Action Party, called the recordings “mind-blowing” and urged prosecutors and other judicial bodies to intervene. He said Erdogan should “not even think about” claiming the tapes were edited.

In response to the leak, there have been calls for protests on social media, across the country.

Is Turkey’s fraud probe just the tip of the iceberg?

Later on Tuesday police fired tear-gas and rubber bullets to disperse hundreds of protesters denouncing corruption during a protest in Kadikoy Square in the commercial hub Istanbul, an opposition stronghold, Dogan news agency and other news media reported.

The leaked discussions could not be independently verified, but were said to have taken place on December 17, the same day a high-level corruption probe implicated key Erdogan allies.

In one recording, a voice thought to be Erdogan can supposedly be heard briefing Bilal about the police raids, which saw top businessmen and the sons of former cabinet ministers detained on allegations of bribery, gold smuggling and illicit dealings with sanctions-hit Iran

Erdogan accused his ally turned rival, US-based Muslim leader Fethullah Gulen, of instigating the corruption investigation that has accused him of seeking to create “a parallel state” in Turkey.

Erdogan has retaliated against the probe by dismissing or re-assigning hundreds of police officers and prosecutors involved in the investigation.

He insists the corruption probe targeting people close to him is a conspiracy against his government before local elections in March and a presidential election in August.

Erdogan’s speech in parliament on Tuesday was repeatedly interrupted by party loyalists chanting “Turkey is proud of you!”.

Pledging that his government would not fall into traps set by rivals, Erdogan said: “We are not scared of anyone, any country … . We are not scared of any traitor.”

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies