Turkish officials have hit out at a Reuters report that US and Swedish authorities are investigating a possible bribery case involving the son of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
According to the report published on Monday, anti-corruption authorities in the United States and Sweden are investigating allegations that the Swedish company Dignita Systems, a partner of an American company, is attempting to gain a foothold in the Turkish market through Bilal Erdoğan, the son of Turkish President. According to the agency’s exclusive report, the company promised to pay tens of millions of dollars in kickbacks if Bilal Erdoğan helped it gain market dominance in Turkey for a breathalyser it manufactures.
Dignita abruptly ended the project last year and as a result “no bribes were paid”, Reuters news agency said in an exclusive report analysing communications and documents on the proposed marketing plan.
Reuters pointed out that the allegations come at a sensitive time of heightened expectations over Sweden’s application for NATO membership, which Turkey has vetoed.
The Turkish Presidency’s Director of Communications Fahrettin Altun was the first to respond to the report. “The so-called news item published today by Reuters, under an exclusive report category, is both a dark stain on the history of journalism and a pitiful example of how a 171-year-old media organisation openly humiliates itself with baseless allegations targeting our President’s son, Bilal Erdoğan,” he said, clearly outraged.
Altun stressed that Reuters was unable to independently confirm whether President Erdoğan, his son Bilal, or anyone associated with them were aware of or involved in the alleged bribery plan.
He further condemned the news item, calling it a propaganda operation targeting Erdoğan’s family, and went on to question the timing of the report, which coincided with the upcoming NATO Summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, scheduled for 11-12 July.
Altun said that such operations, “orchestrated by anti-Turkey lobbies” were aimed at exerting pressure on Turkey but would not succeed in harming the country’s principled stance.
Justice Minister Yılmaz Tunç also denounced the Reuters report on Bilal Erdoğan, arguing that it contained baseless allegations and was a false story that exceeded the limits of press freedom. He emphasised that the report was purely aimed at tarnishing the country’s reputation.
Vice President Cevdet Yılmaz joined the criticism, condemning Reuters for engaging in “manipulation and spreading false news targeting Bilal Erdoğan ahead of the NATO Summit”.