Erdogan's party leader concedes voices on tapes could be prime minister, son

McClatchy Foreign StaffMarch 3, 2014 

— The leaked wiretap in which Turkish Prime Minister Recip Tayyip Erdogan tells his son to “get rid of” huge sums of money could well be genuine recordings of their voices, according to the spokesman for Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party.

“These could well be genuine voice recordings,” said spokesman Huseyin Celik. “There may be a conversation between father and son.” But he added: “That is not the nature of the issue. He (the Prime Minister) says it was changed and converted. He says things were added.”

Despite Celik's careful wording, it was the first concession from Erdogan's camp that the voices heard on the infamous recordings are those of Erdogan and his son. Celik avoids endorsing Erdogan’s claims that the audio, which purports to be Erdogan telling son Bilal to get rid of millions in cash as a corruption investigation sweeps the cabinet, had been “changed and converted” or that material was added.

After the recordings were posted anonymously on the Internet, Erdogan denounced them as an “immoral montage.” At the same time, he complainted bitterly that his secure telephone had been tapped.

McClatchy last week consulted U.S.-based cyber analyst Joshua Marpet, who said after examining the recordings that he saw no sign they had been altered or that material had been added. Marpet, whose firm, Guarded Risk, is based in Wilmington, Del., said the only “montage” he could detect was that five separate conversations were combined onto one recording.

The purported father-son conversations involve enormous sums of money. In the first of four wiretaps on Dec. 17 – the day the graft-and-corruption scandal first broke -- Erdogan reputedly instructs Bilal: “Whatever you have in the house, get rid of it, OK?” In the fourth conversation that day, Bilal says he had not quite “zeroed” out the money, and that 30 million euros ($39 million) were left.

New wiretaps of Erdogan purportedly conversing with Bilal were posted over the weekend, and the voices sounded familiar. In one, posted on YouTube, Erdogan reputedly tells Bilal that he is unhappy with the response of Aziz Yildirim, the chairman of Turkey’s famed Fenerbahce soccer club, to a match-fixing scandal. In the purported wiretap, Erdogan urges Bilal to approach Yildirim’s rival, Mehmet Ali Aydinlar, and ask him to argue for Yildirim to be punished, rather than the club.

Three other newly posted wiretaps purportedly relate to the Turkey Service to Youth and Education Foundation, a non-profit which Bilal helps direct, which is alleged to have been a conduit for bribes. In one purported conversation, Bilal is chatting with a prominent media boss about a payment of 1 million Turkish lira ($456,000).

“Is this zakat (religious alms) or is this the other kind?” Bilal purportedly asks M. Fatih Sarac, the head of Ciner Media and Haberturk. “No, this is a normal one,” Sarac reputedly responds.

Email: rgutman@mcclatchydc.com; Twitter: @roygutmanmcc

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