14 February 2014
Fresh footage leaked onto the Internet on Feb. 14 appears to reveal the model of a construction project marred by fraud claims in Istanbuls upmarket Etiler neighborhood, adding a new twist to the massive graft allegations.
The footage shows a group of businessman examining the model of a complex that was allegedly set to be built by selling a parcel of land owned by a police school in the city. A number of reports on the graft probes launched in mid-December said the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality had sold the land to a construction company for less than half of its worth without organizing a tender.
The claims were attributed to the investigation files of a second corruption case, and were controversially made public last week after its head judge declared in a written statement that he had been removed from the case due to pressure.
Istanbul Mayor Kadir Topbaş rejected the claims, showing the land parcels deed to cameras to prove that it had not yet been sold.
However, according to the newly leaked footage and plans, the colossal project named Bosphorus 360 was set to be built across 32,000 square meters and included a shopping mall, residences and a hotel.
The businessmen appearing in the leaked footage include the Saudi trader Yasin al-Qadi, whose name was on the list of suspects that were due to be arrested as part of a second graft probe, according to official prosecution documents obtained by the Turkish media.
The arrest orders eventually were not carried out, as the investigation was spectacularly made public after its initial prosecutor was removed from the case Dec. 25.
Al-Qadi was already a controversial name as he has been accused of financing terrorism in the past.
Egyptian businessman Osama Qutb, who is known for being the right hand man and also a suspect in the second graft probe, also appears in the footage.
Regarding the land, Topbaş said it became the property of the municipality via protocol with the Interior Ministry, adding that the $460 million value was determined after an assessment by the state-run housing agency (TOKİ). Reports said the cost of the land, located in one of Istanbuls most prized neighborhoods, should instead be up to $1 billion.