A senior politician from Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) and a close ally of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called in a favor for a relative to illegally fix a problem with the Istanbul Municipality, a secret wiretap has revealed.
Mustafa Elitaş, a former economy minister and currently chairman of the Information and Technology Committee in the Turkish Parliament, called Adem Baştürk, secretary-general of the Greater Istanbul Municipality, to take care of a problem his brother-in-law was facing with the city administration. Elitaş’s relative apparently built an illegal extension to his business and installed a glass enclosure on public land. Municipal inspectors wrote a report that would lead to a fine and demolition of the extension.
“You know I’ve got a brother-in-law, Sabahattin Solmaz. He’s got a problem. When are you going to give him a meeting date [to solve the problem]?” Elitaş asked Baştürk in a phone call recorded on December 6, 2012. Baştürk said the problem was bigger than he thought because Solmaz had built a large glass-enclosed building in a public space in violation of city codes and regulations.
Elitaş tried to downplay the problem by saying that glass enclosures can easily be folded back to reclaim the open space on public land, but Baştürk said he saw photos and that it was a huge enclosure, and the municipal inspectors had written Solmaz up for the violation as well. Elitaş insisted that the problem should be resolved without any repercussions to his brother-in-law’s business.
Wiretap transcript of a telephone conversation between Mustafa Elitaş and Adem Baştürk:Adem_Basturk_Mustafa_Elitas
In the end, Baştürk agreed to resolve the matter to Elitaş’s satisfaction and said, “OK, we’ll make a decision to demolish it, but we won’t actually demolish it.” He also made an appointment for Elitaş’s brother-in-law to come see him on Friday afternoon to talk face-to-face.
Baştürk was the second most powerful figure in the Istanbul Municipality next to the then-mayor, Kadir Topbaş, when the AKP was running the municipality. He was a suspect in a major corruption investigation that involved Erdoğan’s family members and business and political associates. He had been fixing land deals, changing the status of local zoning and amending decisions to generate illicit revenue for his AKP cronies.
Baştürk’s phone was wiretapped on the order of a judge at the Istanbul 2nd High Criminal Court on November 20, 2012 as part of long-running corruption probe. He was among the suspects who were subjects of detention warrants issued on December 25, 2013 by the prosecutors. However, Erdoğan stepped in, illegally preventing the execution of the warrants by ordering the police to ignore the prosecutor’s orders. After the removal of the prosecutors and police chiefs who were involved in the investigation, Erdoğan managed to whitewash the crimes of his associates.
The AKP lost Istanbul to the main opposition Republican People’s Party in the 2019 local elections after a quarter-century of direct and indirect rule by Erdoğan, who was himself mayor of Istanbul in the 1990s before becoming prime minister and then president. He had nominated his close associates to run for Istanbul mayor and secured their wins for years until last year. He had always meddled in the decision making processes in the city and over the years had exerted his influence through his proxies put in the city administration.