Former minister Bayraktar calls for 'independent prosecutor' to lead 2013 graft case probe

One of the four former ministers who lost his job over a 2013 corruption scandal, Erdoğan Bayraktar called for an “independent prosecutor” to investigate him with regards to the allegations. “I would not be afraid to go to the Supreme Council Court,” Bayraktar reportedly told journalist Fikret Bila earlier this week.

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Erdoğan Bayraktar, one of the former ministers who lost his job in 2013 in a sweeping corruption and bribery scandal, has called for an “independent prosecutor” to investigate the claims of corruption against him, saying he would not be afraid to stand trial at the Supreme Council Court, also known as “Yüce Divan” in Turkish.

Bayraktar reportedly made the comments to journalist Fikret Bila earlier this week. Bila shared the details of his meeting with Bayraktar on a program on Halk TV late on Sept. 9.

“I have been told by Bayraktar, 'It is as if I have a lump in my throat. Whatever I drink, I cannot swallow it, digest it.' This is why he is asking for an independent prosecutor. He is saying, 'Let this file be looked into; I would not be afraid to go to the Supreme Council Court,'” Bila said.

The court is in effect the country's usual highest instance, the Constitutional Court, but uses a different name when it is called upon to try former ministers.

Bayraktar has previously told journalist Altan Sancar that all the information that was put in his investigation file at the time was “true from A to Z.”

The former minister later backed down from his statements, saying in a tweet: “Those that read the tapes and technical surveillance reports [from 2013] in an unbiased way, would understand how empty the investigation file is and how cruelly it was prepared.”

In 2013, three ministers, including former Environment and Urban Planning Minister Bayraktar, resigned after their sons were detained in a roundup that included the head of a public bank, several bureaucrats and high-profile businessmen.

The police confiscated millions of dollars as money used in bribery during the investigation.

Alleged wiretapping of the phones of the then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and other high-profile officials from his government emerged after the 17 December anti-graft operations.

Erdoğan accused supporters of a former ally turned arch-rival, U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, of instigating the probe to topple his government.

Afterwards, Erdoğan reshuffled almost half of the entire cabinet, as a result of which a fourth minister Egemen Bağış also lost his job.

The investigations however did not get anywhere as the Turkish judiciary decided not to proceed against graft suspects, including former ministers' sons, the former manager of Halkbank, and the controversial Iranian-Azeri businessman Reza Zarrab. With this decision, the scandal has been buried.

At the time, $4.5 million was found stashed in shoeboxes at the house of Süleyman Arslan, the ex-manager of the state-run Halkbank. Arslan denied any wrongdoing and then-Prime Minister Erdoğan even claimed all of the cash was being held as “charity money.”

Bayraktar at the time suggested that Erdoğan should resign because the zoning plans that were in the investigation file were made with his approval. Bayraktar later apologized to Erdoğan for his remarks.