Turkey’s Prime Minister has hit back at claims he told his son to dispose of large sums of money on the day police investigating government corruption raided several houses.
In an address to parliament Recep Tayyip Erdogan said a recording of his conversation was a fake engineered by his political rivals who had penetrated encrypted state communications.
He did not name his opponents but made it clear he was talking of a network run by former ally, Islamic cleric Fetullah Gulen.
Erdogan’s supporters shouted their approval for their embattled leader but his critics in the opposition say the 11-minute audio tape posted on YouTube proves there is a case to answer.
The recording is purportedly of Erdogan and his son Bilal discussing how to reduce the funds to “zero” by distributing them among several businessmen. At one point, the voice supposedly of Bilal says some 30 million euros ($40 million) remain to be disposed of.
Aluk Koc, spokesman for the main opposition party People’s Republican party (CHP) urged Erdogan to quit now: “Turkey’s prime minister is tarnished by theft and bribery and he should resign immediately. Turkey cannot move forward with this burden.”
Recent polls show Erdogan’s popularity has hardly been dented by the corruption scandal which broke in December, with the detention of businessmen close to him and three ministers’ sons.
But the latest allegations may prove to be the toughest test of his resilience ahead of local elections in March.