The latest leaked conversation between Prime Minister Erdoğan and his son Bilal Erdoğan was recorded on December 17, 2013. This was the very same day we woke up to police raids, and heard of a corruption investigation into a group of highly networked businessmen and politicians, including the sons of three of Erdoğan’s own ministers.
Minister of Economy Zafer Çağlayan was implicated in an international corruption scandal where he was allegedly paid 103 million lira ($49 million) over two years, as “commission” – bribe – after seeking to profit off of Iran’s sanctions-busting ‘gold for gas’ scheme with Turkey. A classic example of politicians in positions of power mixing foreign policy with their opportunist self-interest.
Then there were allegations of construction briberies… PM Erdoğan and his party have created a $200 billion public works plan. This includes a 3rd suspension bridge to be built in Istanbul, costing around $2.5 billion, and a 3rd airport costing $14 billion. However, executives from companies building the bridge and airport are among the 100 people arrested, questioned, or sought by the prosecutors leading the corruption investigation. Bribes given to politicians for changing zoning regulations or on specific plots of land were also part of the initial investigation.
The phone conversation leaked today – between PM Recep Erdoğan and his son Bilal Erdoğan – was recorded on the day the corruption investigation started and took place over a 26-hour period. If this doesn’t clearly show the most powerful man in Turkey, caught with his hand in the cookie jar, I don’t know what does.
“Whatever you have in the house, get rid of it, OK?” the prime minister can be heard telling Bilal in the opening conversation. Erdogan tells Bilal that his sister Sumeyye is on her way to help him and admonishes Bilal to tell others in the family also to get rid of cash, including Sumeyye’s husband, Bilal’s brother Burak, his uncle Mustafa Erdogan, and Erdogan’s brother-in-law, Berat Albayrak.
“It will be good if you completely ‘zero’ it,” the prime minster is heard saying in the second conversation, which took place later that morning. In the fourth conversation at 11:15 that night, Bilal says he had almost “zeroed” out the money, but that there were some 30 million euros (about $39 million) left. When his father asks why he didn’t transfer all the money to Mehmet Gur, a contractor who was building the Erdogan family villa, Bilal responds: because “it takes a lot of space.”
At different points, Erdogan can be heard warning Bilal not to use a regular telephone. In the final conversation on the morning of Dec. 18, after Bilal admits that the money had not been “zeroed out,” the prime minister again says Bilal should get rid of all the funds.
“OK, Dad, but we are probably being monitored at the moment,” Bilal said. His father replied: “Son, you’re being wiretapped,” to Bilal responds: “But they are monitoring us with cameras as well.”
Two more conversations were published on the Internet Wednesday night, one purporting to capture Erdogan and Bilal discussing how much money they should expect from a Turkish businessman, and the other recording two other businessmen discussing a payoff. More are expected, at least until the country votes in municipal elections March 31.
The following conversation can not be used as incriminating evidence in court. However, the leads that can be traced from the information that is mentioned and the sheer gravity of the occasion makes it impossible for Prime Minister Erdoğan to simply walk away from the allegations without dire consequences.
The transcript of the phone conversation (link to recording) is as follows:
1. Conversation between PM Erdoğan and his son Bilal Erdoğan. Dec 17, 2013 08:02 a.m.
RTE: Are you home son?
Bilal E: Yes father
RTE: Now! This morning [they] made an operation. Ali Agaoglu, Reza Zerrab, Erdogan’s [Bayraktar-ex minister] son, Zafer’s [Caglayan – ex-minister] son, Muammer’s [Guler – ex-minister] son.. All their houses are being searched now.
BE: Can you say that again daddy.
RTE: I’m saying that Muammer’s son, Zafer’s son, Erdogan’s son, Ali Agaoglu, Reza Zerrab etc. They are searching the houses of 18 people under a big corruption operation.
RTE: OK? Now, what I’m saying is, you take out everything that you have in the house. OK?
BE: What can I have on me dad! There is your money in the safe.
RTE: That’s what I am saying. Now, I am sending in your sister. OK?
BE: Who are you sending?
RTE: Your sister.
BE: Eh, OK
RTE: Then.. she has the same information you have, OK? One more thing, talk with your big brother
RTE: .. talk with your uncle too, he should also get rid [of the money], also talk to your [maternal] uncle, he should also do the same…
BE: What should we do with these [the money] dad, where shall we put them?
RTE: To specific places, to some specific places
(A woman’s voice in the background saying “Berat”)
BE: Berat also has some.
RTE: That’s what I am saying. Now, get together, go get your uncle, I don’t know if Uncle Ziya has some, OK? Also immediately inform your brother Burak too.
BE: OK daddy. Do you mean Sümeyye [his sister/PM’s daughter] will take it out, or will Sümeyye tell me where to take them?
RTE: Yes, fine. C’mon now, do [it] think about it amongst yourselves, with your uncle, etc
BE: On what to do?
RTE: Yes, yes, let’s be in contact and do it fast, by 10.00. Because the issue is…
BE: OK father
RTE: OK? Keep in touch
BE: OK daddy
2. Conversation between PM Erdoğan and his son Bilal Erdoğan. Dec 17, 2013 11.17 a.m.
BE: Father, we got together with Brother Hasan etc. Brother Berat, my uncle, we are together, thinking about it. Berat has another idea. He says, let’s give some of it to Faruk [Kalyoncu] for the other “business/thing” so that he can process them like the previous ones. Shall we do it, we can solve a considerable amount this way?
RTE: That could work
BE: OK. For the other part, because we started a business partnership with Mehmet Gur, we thought of giving some to him saying “keep it, as the projects start coming you can use from that. This way, we will be able to dissolve and move the rest to somewhere else.
RTE: OK, fine, as long as you do…
RTE: Did Sümeyye arrive?
BE: She arrived home, she’ll be coming here now. OK daddy, we will sort this out today, inshallah (with God’s permission). Anything else?
RTE: It would be good if you do… If you could zero the balance [dissolve all of the money].
BE: Yes, we will reset it all, inshallah.
3. Conversation between PM Erdoğan and his son Bilal Erdoğan. Dec 17, 2013, 15.39 p.m.
RTE: Did you do the other tasks I gave you?
BE: We will finish them in the evening. We sorted some out; We sorted the Berat part, now we will first handle the part with Mehmet Gur and the rest, we will do that when it gets dark.
RTE: What did Sümeyye do?
BE: She took them out, brought them, we talked, etc.
RTE: Did she sort both sides?
BE: I think so daddy, she said she emptied both.
RTE: Both sides
BE: Yes, she said both of them. But is this what you mean by saying ‘both sides’?
RTE: Whatever. OK, fine
4. Conversation between PM Erdoğan and his son Bilal Erdoğan. Dec 17, 2013, 23.15 p.m.
BE: Hi daddy, I am calling to… we did [it] mostly. Eee, did you call me daddy?
RTE: No I did not, you called me.
BE: I was called from a secret number.
RTE: When you say mostly, do you mean you’ve fully dissolved it?
BE: We are not yet at zero daddy. Let me explain.. We still have about 30 million euros that we have not been able to move, to dissolve. Berat thought of something.. There was an additional 25 million dollars that Ahmet Calik should receive. They say let’s give this [to him] there. When the money comes, we do something with it. And with the remaining money we can buy a flat from Sehrizar, he says. What do you say, father?
(background soun: Ayyy)
RTE: Is Sümeyye with you?
BE: Yes, should I call her?
RTE: No, there was another sound, that’s why I asked
BE: Umm.. I mean, he can transfer 25 million dollars to Calik and buy a flat from Sherizar with the remainder.
RTE: Whatever, sort it out however you see fit.
BE: Should we do it like this?
RTE: OK do it
BE: Do you want all of it dissolved father, or do you want some money for yourself?
RTE: No, it cannot stay, son. You could transfer that to the other, with Mehmet you could transfer it there…
BE: Yes, we gave them. We gave them 20.
RTE: For God’s sake, you should’ve first transferred it, then you could…
BE: This was all we were able to give. It is already difficult. It takes up too much space. We are putting some of it in another place, we gave part of it to Tunç, and then…
RTE: Did you transfer it all to Tunc?
BE: (Sümeyye, can you come) Where, father?
RTE: To Tunc, I said, did you transfer it all to Tunc?
BE: They asked, I guess he said that he could take 10 million euros.
RTE: Whatever. Do not talk like this on the phone.
BE: OK, then, we will sort it as such.
RTE: Ok do it. I am not able to come tonight, I will stay in Ankara
BE: OK, we are sorting it out. Don’t you worry.
5. Conversation between PM Erdoğan and his son Bilal Erdoğan. Dec 18, 2013, 10.58 a.m.
RTE. I wondered if everything is fine, so I called.
BE: No, nothing new. We finished the tasks you gave us, with the help of God.
RTE: Is it all zeroed?
BE: Fully? I mean saying zeroed, how should I put it? I had Samandira and Maltepe’s money, 730.000 USD and 300.000 TL. I will handle these too. We owe 1 million TL to Faruk İsik (AKP MP); I will give those to him and tell him to transfer the rest to the academy.
RTE: Do not talk openly
BE: Should’t I talk?
RTE: Do not talk, OK?
BE: OK daddy
RTE: I mean, do not keep anything on you, whatever it is Samandira or whatever… Send it to where it needs to be.
BE: OK daddy, but I think currently we are under surveillance
RTE: What have I been telling to you since the very beginning!
BE: But is it the bodyguard team? Who is following us father?
RTE: Son, you are being tapped
BE: But they are also visually monitoring, they say
RTE: That may be true. Now, we did some things (meaning intervention) in Istanbul Security General Directorate.