Halkbank manager banked in a shoebox

Photo: Halkbank manager banked in a shoebox
 / Turkey

The 4.5 million dollars in cash found in shoeboxes in the house of the former general manager of the state-run Halkbank is not the bank's money, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has claimed in an interview with al-Jazeera Hurriyet Daily News reported.

"What I understand about corruption is this: Are the state's coffers being robbed or not? The money found in the shoebox is not money that has been taken or robbed from Halkbank," Erdogan said in the interview broadcast on Feb. 10.

"Halkbank is a bank that had losses before we came into power. Now, it is one of the banks in Europe that makes the most profit. They are disregarding this fact," he added.

Former Halkbank General Manager Suleyman Aslan was found with the millions of dollars in shoeboxes at his house during the graft investigations conducted on Dec. 17.

Prime Minister Erdogan said Turkey's banking watchdog, the banking Regulation and Supervision Agency (BDDK), had conducted the "necessary" examinations of Halkbank. "It has submitted a report, in which there was no trouble. So are we going to believe [the report] or are we going to believe the slander?" he asked.

Regarding the corruption investigation, Erdogan also claimed that the files prepared by the police were not consistent with those prepared by prosecutors.

"In addition, those confidential files have been leaked to the media. This can't be done, because the reputations of renowned businessmen and politicians are at stake. They are innocent until they are proven guilty as charged," Erdogan said.

He also denied that the massive reassignments within the police department and the judiciary, widely interpreted as the government's response to the graft probes, could be described as a "purge."

"In assignments, people are not dismissed, they are only relocated. When assigning [members of the police and judiciary] we use the authority conferred on us by law. But if someone has done wrong, we are not obligated to maintain their positions. They have to render account of their misconduct," Erdogan said, slamming what he called a "juristocracy."

"Tutelage does not comply with democracy. You can never hand a country to a juristocracy. The judiciary should not [think itself] superior to the legislative and executive," Erdogan said, adding this would be contrary to the principle of separation of powers.

Throughout the crisis, Erdogan has accused the Islamic scholar Fetullah Gulen's movement of orchestrating the graft probe in order to damage the government, denouncing a "parallel state" within the police and the judiciary.

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