JEDDAH: The leader of main Turkish opposition party CHP has once again accused President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of not being transparent in disclosing his offshore wealth.
During his party’s parliamentary meeting on Tuesday, Kemal Kilicdaroglu said that Erdogan had been accumulating financial assets in the US for “political emergency situations” in case he and his family were obliged to leave Turkey and move to the US.
He said the reason why Erdogan could not react harshly against Washington was to keep his wealth secret and to avoid any investigation.
“They bought Muhammad Ali’s farm in Michigan because they know that if the epoch changes, they will all go to the US. They are amassing their assets there. Isn’t the unmerited income you made in Turkey enough?” the opposition leader said.
Last year, Turkey’s pro-government Turken Foundation, run by members of Erdogan’s family and some people very close to the president, purchased a 81-acre plot of land belonging to the late boxer Muhammad Ali and his wife on the St. Joseph River in southwest Michigan.
According to Kilicdaroglu, the foundation is currently building a 21-storey student dormitory in Manhattan.
Urging an investigation into the donation channels to the Turken Foundation in April, the CHP claimed that there was no record of an $8 million donation to the foundation for financing the construction of the dormitory.
In November 2017, Turkish media was full of allegations by the Turkish opposition that the Erdogan family transferred large amounts of money to an offshore company called Bellway Limited in the Isle of Man, which is an offshore tax haven and a self-governing British Crown Dependency off the English coast in the Irish Sea.
At that time, Kilicdaroglu insisted that he had proof that members of Erdogan’s family and his close associates transferred at least $15 million to an offshore company in late 2011 and early 2012, and he listed 10 separate payments as a proof. During his party’s weekly parliamentary meeting on November 28, 2017, Kilicdaroglu even publicly shared the swift codes and transfer receipts of this amount allegedly transferred to Isle of Man in 2011.
Erdogan in turn rejected the allegations as mere “lies.”
“If Tayyip Erdogan has a penny abroad, in any bank, come out and prove it. When you prove it, I give you the guarantee that I will not stay in the presidency one more minute,” Erdogan said.
Sued by Erdogan over his remarks about the Isle of Man connections, Kilicdaroglu was ordered to pay damages of 197 thousand liras ($29,000) to the president and his relatives.
Commenting on the case, Canan Kaftancioglu, a controversial CHP figure, said: “Just because our General President Kemal Kilicdaroglu told the truth and defended the pocket of the poor, he has to pay compensation, which will never silence and discourage us and him from speaking the truth.”
The accountability of the offshore bodies has been a hot topic in Turkish politics for a while, at a time when investigative journalists in the country are under attack and judicial independence is getting weaker.
Last year, a court in Istanbul sentenced Turkish journalist Pelin Unker to 13 months and 15 days in prison for “insulting and slandering a public official” after her report for the opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet alleging that Turkish politicians, including former Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, were using offshore entities linked to the “Panama Papers.”
Yildirim and his two sons sued the journalist in November 2017 and rejected claims that they have ties with five offshore companies in Malta.
Ibrahim Varli, editorial coordinator of BirGun, another opposition newspaper, who appealed against his judicial fine over a critical news report on Panama Papers was acquitted in late June.