Investigation into former prosecutor reveals high volume money traffic

Former prosecutor Zekeriya Öz, who was once lauded by the Turkish government but is currently wanted for alleged membership to a terrorist group, made high-volume dollar purchases before corruption probes in 2013, a police investigation has found.

The news network Haber Türk said it had obtained investigation documents appearing to show that Öz bought 800,000 liras worth of U.S. dollars on December 16, one day before the first operation in the corruption probe that led to the resignation of three cabinet ministers, and another 850,000 liras worth on December 24, one day before the second operation. The 1.65 million liras in question would have amounted to around $800,000 at the time.

The money transfers were discovered in a savings account that was opened seven months before the December 17-25 corruption probe, with a first purchase of $57,000, Haber Türk reported. In 18 months, the total volume of money transfers surpassed $10 million, it said.

Zekeriya Öz was the chief prosecutor in the Ergenekon trials, a chain of arrests and prosecutions against what prosecutors said was a conspiracy to bring down the government by a rogue, secularist nationalist group made up of hundreds of people within the media, civil service and security forces.

Öz is currently wanted for alleged membership to FETÖ, or the Fethullahist Terrorist Organisation, the name Turkey uses for followers of Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen who lives in self-imposed exile in the United States and is accused of being behind both the corruption probe and a failed coup attempt that took place on July 15, 2016.

The investigation into Öz’s assets found deeds for one house in his name, and three more in his wife’s, Haber Türk said.

A month before Öz was removed from duty in January 2014, the savings account was emptied. Eight months after that, Öz left Turkey to live in Germany.

The top-level salary for a prosecutor at the time was 7,000 liras (then $3,400), a lawyer speaking to Haber Türk said. “Even if his wife was paid at the top level, there is no possibility for them to buy so many U.S. dollars. It is highly possible that persons in effective offices could have gotten involved with illicit affairs,” lawyer Zekeriya Çetin told Haber Türk.