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February 26, 2020 Special Dispatch No. 8591

Lawyer For Turkish Opposition Party Leader: Expert Report Confirms Authenticity Of Audio Recordings Of Erdoğan Telling Son During Corruption Raid 'Whatever You Have In Your House, Remove It'

February 26, 2020
Turkey | Special Dispatch No. 8591

On February 24, 2020, leading Turkish daily Cumhuriyet reported that Celal Çelik, the lawyer for Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the Turkish opposition party CHP, said that as part of a court case that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had opened against Kılıçdaroğlu, Çelik had submitted to the court a report by an expert confirming that seven audio recordings were authentic and had not been fabricated.[1]

The audio recordings to which the report refers are of seven phone conversations, five of which took place on December 17-18, 2013, between then Prime Minister Erdoğan and his son Bilal, in which, as police searched the homes of AKP officials in a corruption raid, Erdoğan told his son to get rid large amounts of cash, saying, among other things: "It will be good if you bring it completely to zero."[2] The recordings were first released at a CHP meeting on February 25, 2014.[3] The same day, Erdogan said that the recordings were "dubbed," "fabricated," and a "treacherous attack."[4]


President Erdoğan and his son, Bilal, on the right.

In the phone calls, Erdogan initially warns Bilal: "They are doing a big corruption raid... Whatever you have in your house, remove it... It will be good if you bring it completely to zero." Bilal describes how they are moving large amounts of money, saying: "There is one more amount like 30 million euro... We couldn't dissolve it yet... We can transfer 25 million dollars to Çalık." Bilal relays the offer of one "Brother Tunç"[5] to help with the effort: "They said: 'We can probably take 10 million euro.'" At one point bilal describes the physical area the cash occupies, demonstrating the large amount being moved, saying: "Anyway it takes up a lot of space." When Bilal mentions specific amounts and currencies, Erdogan chides him: "Don't speak openly." In a statement on the expert report, Çelik also mentioned a sixth conversation between Erdoğan and Bilal.

In the December 2013 raids, during which these phone calls took place, Turkish police arrested, among others, Reza Zarrab, who was later arrested in Miami for, according to a U.S. Department of Justice press release, "engaging in hundreds of millions of dollars-worth of transactions on behalf of the government of Iran and other Iranian entities, which were barred by U.S. sanctions, laundering the proceeds of those illegal transactions and defrauding several financial institutions by concealing the true nature of these transactions." The release further said that Zarrab and his co-conspirators "used an international network of companies located in Iran, Turkey and elsewhere to conceal from U.S. banks, OFAC and others that the transactions were on behalf of and for the benefit of Iranian entities."[6]

A seventh audio recording is of a phone conversation between then Public Housing Administration Minister Ahmet Haluk Karabel and Erdoğan, in which Erdoğan is angry that Karabel has sold a valuable piece of land in the Ataşehir district of Istanbul without speaking to him first.[7] Erdoğan asks Karabel about the specific terms of the sale: "What was the down payment, and what is the installment?" He tells Karabel that "if necessary we will cancel it" and for such sales of valuable land in the future, "you are going to get the okay from me – you will not sell them without getting approval from me." The recording was uploaded to the internet in March 2014.

Following is a translated transcript of five phone calls between then Prime Minister Erdoğan and his son Bilal.

December 17, 2013, 8:02 am – "They Are Doing A Big Corruption Raid... Whatever You Have In Your House, Remove It"

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "Are you at home, son?"

Bilal Erdoğan: "Yes, dad."

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "In the morning they did a raid, Ali Ağaoğlu,[8] Reza Zarrab, Erdoğan's son, Zafer's son, Muammer's son, right now they are searching their houses."

Bilal Erdoğan: "Can you repeat that, dad?"

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "I'm saying that right now they are doing a big corruption raid on Mr. Muammer's son, Zafer's son, Erdoğan's son, Ali Ağaoğlu, Reza Zarrab, 18 people, they are searching their houses."

Bilal Erdoğan: "Yes?"

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "Okay? Now I am saying, whatever you have in your house, remove it, okay?"

Bilal Erdoğan: "What might I have, dad? There is your money in the safe."

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "That's what I'm talking about. After that I'm sending your sister [Sümeyye Erdogan] okay?"

Bilal Erdoğan: "Who are you sending?"

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "I am saying I am sending your sister."

Bilal Erdoğan: "Ah, okay."

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "She has the same information, talk to your older brother."

Bilal Erdoğan: "Yes?"

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "Talk to your uncle, let him remove it in the same way, talk to your brother in law, him too."

Bilal Erdoğan: "What should we do with these, dad, where should we put it?"

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "Do something to them in particular places."

Bilal Erdoğan: "There is some with Berat, too."

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "That's what I'm saying. Get together, get your uncle too, I don't know if your brother-in-law Ziya is there or not, okay? Do something with your older brother Burak too, okay?"

Bilal Erdoğan: "Okay dad. Sümeyye will remove it for me... Will Sümeyye tell me where I will bring it?"

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "Come on, do something, you [all] think about it amongst yourselves, with your brother-in-law."

Bilal Erdoğan: "About what we should do."

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "Yes, yes. Let's get in contact right away by 10 o' clock, because the subject..."

Bilal Erdoğan: "Okay."

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "Okay? Stay in contact."

Bilal Erdoğan: "Okay dad."

11:17 am – "It Will Be Good If You Bring It Completely To Zero"

Bilal Erdoğan: "Salamu alaikum."

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "Alaikum selam."

Bilal Erdoğan: "We just met with Hasan and the others, my brother, Berat, my uncle, we are thinking of something. Berat had another idea. He said: I'll give one part to Faruk [Kalyoncu][9] regarding the other job, let him handle the other money as he had handled it, you had spoken with him before anyway, should we do that? We can take care of a serious amount that way."

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "It can be."

Bilal Erdoğan: "Okay. Since we started a joint job with Mehmet Gür,[10] we are thinking we could say to him, let one part stay with you, as the projects come you can use it from there. This way we will have decreased [it] and we will carry what is left to another place."

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "Okay, let them do something too."

Bilal Erdoğan: "Okay."

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "Did Sümeyye come?"

Bilal Erdoğan: "Sümeyye came home, now she will come here, she will come to us. Okay dad, we're taking care of it today inshallah. Is there anything else?"

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "It will be good if you do something, it will be good if you bring it completely to zero."

Bilal Erdoğan: "Yes, we'll bring it completely to zero, inshallah."

3:39 pm – "We Will Take Care Of What's Left After Dark"

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "Are the other duties I gave you complete?"

Bilal Erdoğan: "We will be finished in the evening. We took care of one part. We took care of the part concerning Berat. Now we will probably first take care of the part concerning Mehmet Gür, we will take care of what's left after dark."

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "What did Sümeyye do?"

Bilal Erdoğan: "Sümeyye removed them and brought them, we spoke."

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "Did both sides take care of it?"

Bilal Erdoğan: "They gave it, dad, they said 'I am emptied both of them.'"

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "Both sides."

Bilal Erdoğan: "Yes, they said 'I emptied both.' but when you said both sides, that's what you mean, right?"

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "Nevermind, okay."

11:15 pm – "There Is One More Amount Like 30 Million Euro... We Couldn't Dissolve It Yet... We Can Transfer 25 Million Dollars To Çalık... They Said 'We Can Probably Take 10 Million Euro'"

Bilal Erdoğan: "Dad, I called because we did something to a great degree. Did you call me just now?"

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "No, I didn't call, you called."

Bilal Erdoğan: "I got called from a secret number."

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "When you say 'to a great degree' did you bring it to zero or...?"

Bilal Erdoğan: "We didn't bring it to zero yet, dad. There is one more amount like 30 million euro, we couldn't do something, we couldn't dissolve it yet. Berat thought of something. There is still an extra 25 million dollars that Ahmet Çalık[11] will take... He says 'With the rest we can get a unit from Şehrizar.'[12] What do you think, dad?"

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "Is Sümeyye with you?"

Bilal Erdoğan: "She is with me, should I call her?"

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "No, something happened with the sound, that's why I said it."

Bilal Erdoğan: "We can transfer 25 million dollars to Çalık and a unit can be taken from Şehrizar with the part that's left."

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "Whatever, we'll take care of these [things]."

Bilal Erdoğan: "Should we do it that way?"

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "Okay do it."

Bilal Erdoğan: "Should there be absolutely none left, dad, or should there be a little money in your hand?"

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "It can't stay, son. [It would be better] if you had done something to the other side with Mehmet, if you had transferred it there."

Bilal Erdoğan: "Okay, we gave them [some]. We gave them twenty dollars."

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "Allah allah, [it would be better] if you had transferred it and then you would have done something."

Bilal Erdoğan: "What can I say, this is how much we could give, anyway it takes up a lot of space. We are putting another part in another place, one part we gave to brother Tunç, after that..."

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "Did you transfer all of it to Tunç?"

Bilal Erdoğan: "Sümeyye can you come here? To where, dad?"

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "I'm saying to Tunç, did you transfer all of it?"

Bilal Erdoğan: "They asked, they said 'we can probably take 10 million Euro.'"

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "Don't talk about so many things on the thing. Even if it's that way, don't talk."

Bilal Erdoğan: "Okay we're taking care of it then."

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "Take care of it now of course, I can't come, I will stay in Ankara."

Bilal Erdoğan: "Okay we are taking care of it, don't worry."

December 18, 10:58 am – "There Was This Money From Samandıra And Maltepe, 730,000 Dollars And 300,000 Lira..." "Don't Speak Openly"

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "I thought I'd call and see if there was something or not."

Bilal Erdoğan: "There isn't anything, we finished the jobs you gave us, with Allah's permission."

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "Was it brought completely to zero?"

Bilal Erdoğan: "When you say, brought completely to zero, how can I say it, there was this money from Samandıra and Maltepe, 730,000 dollars and 300,000 lira. We have a debt of one million lira to Faik Işık,[13] I'm going to give it to him. The rest I'll tell them to transfer to the academy."

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "Don't speak openly."

Bilal Erdoğan: "I shouldn't speak?"

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "Don't speak. Okay?"

Bilal Erdoğan: "Okay dad."

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "From Samandıra or anywhere, don't hold it. Send it to its place. Why are you holding it?"

Bilal Erdoğan: "Okay dad, but currently we're probably being followed. I can tell that currently we are being followed."

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "What did we tell you, from the beginning."

Bilal Erdoğan: "Okay but is the protection team doing it, who is following us, dad."

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "Son, you are being listened to."

Bilal Erdoğan: "But they are following us visually, too."

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "That's right. We just did some things at the security in Istanbul."

Following is a translated transcript of a phone call between then Prime Minister Erdoğan and then Public Housing Administration Minister Ahmet Haluk Karabel. Erdoğan is angry that a piece of land in the Ataşehir of Istanbul has been sold to one Şerif Enis at a company called Biat Construction.

"What Was The Down Payment, And What Is The Installment?"

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "Haluk did you give Biat a place in Ataşehir with revenue sharing?"

Haluk Karabel: "To Biat? No we did not give such a thing."

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "You gave it to the Şerifs [i.e., Şerif Enis]."

Haluk Karabel: "In the past. They bought land from there, sir."

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "How did they buy land?"

Haluk Karabel: "In the period of our minister [i.e., when Erdoğan Bayraktar was Public Housing Administration minister], they bought land in Ataşehir."

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "They bought land."

Haluk Karabel: "Yes sir."

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "Haluk you are mistaken."

Haluk Karabel: "I swear as far as I know, we did not give any real estate or housing to Biat [on] revenue sharing, sir."

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "Did they get this land from TOKI [i.e., the Public Housing Administration Ministry] or from somewhere else?"

Haluk Karabel: "Sir, the land there was ours of course. They got it from us."

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "They got it from us."

Haluk Karabel: "They got it from us for 72 million."

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "Well? Did they pay the money?"

Haluk Karabel: "They are paying in installments, sir."

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "How are they paying in installments?

Haluk Karabel: "At first there was a down payment, and there were installments. Their payments are ongoing, my honorable prime minister."

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "What was the down payment, and what is the installment?"

""If Necessary, We Will Cancel It"

Haluk Karabel: "Sir, there was a clear down payment of 72 million. Even if it is late, they continue to pay installments, but right now I cannot exactly remember the amounts, my honorable prime minister."

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "In how much time will they pay it?"

Haluk Karabel: "Shall I send you this information in a note, sir, if you wish?"

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "Send it but please talk to me about this kind of thing."

Haluk Karabel: "Sir."

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "Talk [to me] about are we selling this land or not. When you say it was old, how many months?

Haluk Karabel: "We could say it was a year, sir."

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "No way. If it is a year, we are all in trouble."

Haluk Karabel: "Yes."

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "How many installments have you gotten from them?"

Haluk Karabel: "Sir, we must have gotten four or five installments from them. I will dispatch the complete detailed information to you, sir. Do you want me to cancel it?"

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "You do the thing right away, if necessary, we will cancel it."

"You Are Going To Get The Okay From Me – You Will Not Sell Them Without Getting Approval From Me"

Haluk Karabel: "I understand, my honorable prime minister."

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "And look right away at situations that can be cancelled and that cannot be."

Haluk Karabel: "Okay, sir."

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "And on these kinds of things, especially coupon locations,[14] you are going to get the okay from me. You will not sell them without getting approval from me."

Haluk Karabel: "I am not doing anything without asking you, sir."

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "But I had no news of this."

Haluk Karabel: "This had come up before. You had said 'Why did you sell it?' sir."

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "Well?"

Haluk Karabel: "It has been a while. It has been a year and a half since we spoke, if I remember correctly. I had said it was old then, too."

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "You prepare those things and give me the information on them."

Haluk Karabel: "Okay sir."

 

[1] Cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/kilicdaroglunun-avukati-erdoganin-montaj-dedigi-tapelerin-dogrulugu-ispatlandi-1722997, February 24, 2020.

[2] Youtube.com/watch?v=aeytLBm62eo&t, February 25, 2014.

[3] Tv.sozcu.com.tr/2014/haber/video/chp-grup-toplantisi-canli-2, February 25, 2014.

[4] Evrensel.net/haber/79136/erdogan-dublaj-montaj-ve-lobiler, February 25, 2014.

[5] The identity of this "Brother Tunç" is not clear, however Çiğdem Toker writing in Cumhuriyet speculated that it may be Kadri Tunç Peker, who was arrested during the raids. Cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/kim-bu-tunc-abi-45715, February 27, 2014.

[6] Justice.gov/opa/pr/turkish-national-arrested-conspiring-evade-us-sanctions-against-iran-money-laundering-and, March 21, 2016.

[7] Youtube.com/watch?v=msYIPdiXULA, March 19, 2014.

[8] Ali Ibrahim Agaoğlu is a Turkish billionaire and real estate developer.

[9] Ömer Faruk Kalyoncu is CEO of Zirve Holding. Turkey.mom-rsf.org/en/owners/individual-owners/detail/owner/owner/show/oemer-faruk-kalyoncu, accessed February 26, 2020.

[10] In July 2018, it was reported that Mehmet Gür was chairman of the board of a company called the Middle East Group, that he had established a company in 2014 in partnership with President Erdoğan's son Bilal, and that he was President Erdoğan's childhood friend. Gazeteduvar.com.tr/ekonomi/2018/07/05/erdoganin-2-milyon-lira-borclu-oldugu-mehmet-gur-kimdir, July 5, 2018.

[11] Ahmet Çalık is a Turkish billionaire active in the construction, banking, telecom, mining, and textile industries.

[12] Şehrizar Mansions is a Turkish luxury real-estate company. Sehrizar.com/hakkimizda.aspx, accessed February 26, 2020.

[13] Faik Işık is a Turkish lawyer who first confirmed and then a day later denied that he had received one million Turkish lira from Bilal Erdoğan on "that date." T24.com.tr/haber/faik-isik-fikrini-degistirdi-bilal-erdogandan-para-aldigini-reddetti,251993, February 25, 2014.

[14] A kupon yeri ("coupon location") is a Turkish real estate term for a valuable parcel of land.

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