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Turkey PM vows action against 'fake' leaked recordings

A demonstrator, holding a banner with a picture of Bilal Erdogan, son of Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan with a slogan that reads "Pay our electronic ticket Bilal", jumps over a turnstile during a protest against private security guards at Taksim metro station in central Istanbul December 31, 2013. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

ANKARA: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday condemned leaked recordings in which he and his son appear to discuss hiding large sums of money as a "vile attack", amid mounting calls for his resignation.

"What was done is a vile and a treacherous attack against the prime minister of the Republic of Turkey. It will not go unpunished," Erdogan told his ruling party lawmakers in parliament.

The phone conversations, posted on YouTube, allegedly reveal Erdogan asking his son Bilal to make millions of euros stashed in several houses disappear.

A voice attributed to Bilal is heard saying: "We haven't nullified it yet, father. The situation is that 30 million euros remains. We couldn't liquidate it yet."

The leaked discussions, which could not be independently verified, were said to have taken place on December 17, the same day key Erdogan allies were caught up in police raids linked to a corruption investigation that has rocked the government.

In one conversation, Erdogan can supposedly be heard briefing Bilal about the raids, which saw top businessmen and the sons of former cabinet ministers detained on allegations of bribery, gold smuggling and illicit dealings with sanctions-hit Iran.

The premier's office said the wiretapped conversations were fabricated and vowed to take legal action against those behind "this dirty setup".

"The recordings... are the product of an immoral montage and completely untrue," Erdogan's office said in a statement late on Monday.

Erdogan has come under intense pressure since the corruption scandal erupted, throwing up the biggest challenge yet to his 11 years in power ahead of key local elections in March.

He has blamed his ally-turned-rival Fethullah Gulen, a US-based Muslim cleric, for instigating the graft probe, accusing him of seeking to create "a parallel state" in Turkey.

On Monday, the Turkish government said thousands of influential people, including the premier, cabinet ministers and journalists, had been wiretapped by Gulen supporters in the police and the judiciary.

Local media said the surveillance was discovered by prosecutors who were appointed following a mass purge of the police and prosecution service in response to the corruption probe. 

Erdogan, whose speech in parliament was repeatedly interrupted by party loyalists chanting "Turkey is proud of you!", said his government would not fall into traps set by rivals.

"We are not scared of anyone, any country... We are not scared of any traitor," he said.

Tuesday's leaks prompted fresh calls from the opposition for the government to resign. 

"You transferred dollars, euros and Turkish liras using cars and trucks. But new things will be disclosed soon," Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the main opposition Republican People's Party said Tuesday. 

"My advice to you: Take a helicopter and flee abroad or resign," he told lawmakers at his parliamentary group meeting. 

Meanwhile, the Hurriyet newspaper reported that Yasin al-Qadi, a wealthy Saudi businessman once named on a UN list of Al-Qaeda financiers, had this week testified along with his son in the ongoing graft probe in Istanbul.

 

Several Turkish newspapers published photos of Bilal having a meeting with al-Qadi allegedly to discuss a real estate deal for land worth $1 billion in Istanbul. 

Erdogan has repeatedly rejected allegations that his son was involved in the corruption scandal.

The political tensions of recent months have battered Turkey's financial markets, with the lira and stocks tumbling. 

 

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Summary

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday condemned leaked recordings in which he and his son appear to discuss hiding large sums of money as a "vile attack", amid mounting calls for his resignation.

The phone conversations, posted on YouTube, allegedly reveal Erdogan asking his son Bilal to make millions of euros stashed in several houses disappear.

The leaked discussions, which could not be independently verified, were said to have taken place on December 17, the same day key Erdogan allies were caught up in police raids linked to a corruption investigation that has rocked the government.

Erdogan has come under intense pressure since the corruption scandal erupted, throwing up the biggest challenge yet to his 11 years in power ahead of key local elections in March.

Erdogan has repeatedly rejected allegations that his son was involved in the corruption scandal.


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