Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan Saturday warned some foreign ambassadors he might expel them over “provocative actions,” amid mounting tensions over an anti-graft probe
“Some ambassadors are engaged in provocative actions … Do your job,” Erdogan said in televised remarks in the Black Sea city of Samsun. “We don’t have to keep you in our country.”
Erdogan’s remarks were considered a veiled threat to US Ambassador Francis Ricciardone who, according to some pro-government media outlets, told some European Union envoys that Washington warned state-owned Halkbank to cut its ties with sanctions-hit Iran.
The chief executive of Halkbank, Suleyman Aslan, was one of scores of people, including the sons of Erdogan cabinet ministers, who have been arrested in a high-profile bribery investigation that went to the heart of the government, which has been in power since 2002.
Aslan was charged early Saturday with taking bribes, the Hurriyet newspaper said without elaborating.
Judges in Istanbul also charged the sons of Interior Minister Muammer Guler, Baris Guler, and of Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan, Kaan Caglayan, with acting as intermediaries in order to give and take bribes, the Hurriyet newspaper reported without elaborating.
Azerbaijani businessman Reza Zarrab was meanwhile charged with forming a ring that bribed officials to disguise illegal gold sales to Iran via Halkbank, Hurriyet said.
Police also seized $US4.5 million in cash hidden in shoe boxes in Aslan’s home, local media reported last week, citing judicial sources.
Halkbank came under fire from some quarters in the United States for its illegal transactions to Iran but the bank had previously denied the claims.
“We asked Halkbank to cut its links with Iran. They did not listen to us. You are watching the collapse of an empire,” Ricciardone was quoted as telling EU ambassadors, according to Aksam, Bugun, Yeni Safak and Star newspapers.
But Ricciardone on Saturday denied the media reports as “baseless allegations,” in his Twitter account in the Turkish language.
“Nobody should put US-Turkish relations into jepoardy through baseless allegations,” he said.
Copyright (2013) AFP. All rights reserved.
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