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Two Turkish ministers resign over corruption probe

Updated: 2013-12-25 15:47
( Xinhua)

Two Turkish ministers resign over corruption probe

Turkey's European Affairs Minister Egemen Bagis (L), Interior Minister Muammer Guler and Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan (R) chat as they wait for the arrival of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan at Esenboga Airport in Ankara December 24, 2013. [Photo/Agencies]

ANKARA - Turkey's Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan and Interior Minister Muammer Guler, whose sons were arrested on accusations of bribery and corruption, resigned on Wednesday morning, at a time when the high-level graft probe has shaken the political establishment of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Their announcement of resignations came after a meeting with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan held late on Tuesday. Some other cabinet members, including those accused in the probe, also attended the meeting.

"It is clear that the operation which was launched on December 17 is a 'dirty game' against our government, our party and our country... I have left my post as the economy minister to thwart this ugly game in which my son and my close aides were implicated and to allow the facts to come out." Caglayan said in a written statement on Wednesday.

"I presented my resignation verbally to the prime minister on December 17 (the date his son was detained). Today I tendered it," Guler also said in a statement on Wednesday.

Morn than 80 people, including some prominent businessmen close to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and sons of three government ministers, were detained last week as part of the probe into tender fraud and bribery allegations.

Twenty-four of them, including the sons of Guler and Caglayan, have been arrested under the largest ever corruption investigation in the nation.

The investigation exposed a bitter feud between Erdogan's government and an influential US-based Muslim cleric, Fetullah Gulen, who wields influence over police and judiciary.

Police seized 4.5 million US dollars in cash last Wednesday when they raided the house of the state-hold Halkbank's General Manager Suleyman Aslan.

Local media reported that leaks from the investigations indicated the ministers had allegedly taken millions of dollars in cash in exchange for favors granted to a detained suspect named Reza Zarrab, an Iranian national.

Zarrab allegedly played a crucial role in the money transfer from Turkey to Iran through HalkBank in exchange for gold to import Iran's natural gas, a measured aimed at evading the international sanctions on Iran's nuclear program.

Erdogan signaled on Tuesday upcoming replacement in the cabinet over the corruption allegations. On the same day, Turkish President Abdullah Gul said he expected the ministers involved in the graft probe would resign.

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