Turkish opposition cites Hariri firm's unpaid debts in Kanal Istanbul spat

Turkey's opposition has slammed President Erdoğan after he said that Kanal Istanbul investors will go to international arbitration court and “take the money by force” if dues of the project are not paid. İYİ Party asked Erdoğan why he did not take Lebanese PM-designate Hariri's family to arbitration court when they failed to repay their Türk Telekom loan and transferred billions of dollars in dividend income from Turkey to Lebanon.

Duvar English

Turkey's İYİ (Good) Party has slammed President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan after he threatened the public with further debts to foreign banks if the opposition assumes power in the next elections and cancel the controversial Istanbul Kanal project.

Main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said last week that he would cut ties with any domestic or foreign companies that invested in the project if his party eventually gains control of the government.

In response, Erdoğan said on June 26 that they have no choice but to make the payment.

"How do you aspire to rule the country? They'll get this money from you by force through international arbitration," Erdoğan said. 

İYİ Party parliamentary group chair İsmail Tatlıoğlu said that Erdoğan “spoke like an official of the Düyun-u Umumi,” which was a European-controlled organization that was established in 1881 to collect the payments which the Ottoman Empire owed to European companies.

“It has been understood that Erdoğan is in an effort to prevent future rulers of Turkey from seeking people's rights. This is very saddening and very meaningful. Of course those who will rule Turkey after Erdoğan's government will raise the issue of today's tenders that have stamps of corruption on them,” Tatlıoğlu said during a press conference in parliament on June 28.

“Then we ask Erdoğan from here; did you Mr. Erdoğan take by force the $9 billion which the Hariri family transferred from Turkey? Why did you not?” Tatlıoğlu asked.

On June 26, Erdoğan met with Lebanon's Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri in Istanbul, which marks the second meeting between the pair this year.

Hariri's name is associated with a corruption case in Turkey, with regards to his family's involvement in the Türk Telekom case.

In 2005, just three years after Erdoğan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) assumed power, telecom company Türk Telekom was privatized.

The Hariri family's company Oger Telecom acquired a controlling 55 percent of Türk Telekom for $6.5 billion by receiving loans from dozens of Turkish and international lenders.

In 2018, the Hariri family failed to pay an installment on a loan of $4.75 billion, in what is described as Turkey's biggest ever default.

Oger Telecom's shares were eventually taken over by some 20 lenders, including several Turkish banks.

Turkish opposition has been since pointing out that public resources were wasted to compensate for the Hariri family's failed payment and that Türk Telekom has transferred billions of dollars to Lebanon as a profit share.