Ercan Airport bribery claims ‘should be investigated’

Claims that a former North Cyprus official close to veteran politician Serdar Denktaş demanded a $750,000 “bribe” from the head of the Turkish firm hired to redevelop the country’s main airport should be investigated, main opposition leader Ersin Tatar has said.

Writing on his personal Facebook page yesterday, Mr Tatar – leader of the National Unity Party (UBP) – said that the allegations circulating on “internet news sites and on social media” were “very serious”.

Mr Tatar said the reports “mentioned Finance Minister Serdar Denktaş and Emrullah Turanlı, the owner of the firm building the new Ercan airport” – although he stopped short of directly accusing the pair of any wrongdoing.

“As the UBP, we will do our part to ensure that everything is revealed,” he said, while calling on “those named in the stories to make public statements as soon as possible”.

Neither Mr Denktaş nor Mr Turanlı have commented on the allegations.

Turkish Cypriot media reports this week claimed that Hasan Tosunoğlu, once appointed by Mr Denktaş to the board of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) Co-operative Bank – a position from which he later resigned – had asked Mr Turanlı to hand over $750,000 to “overcome some problems” that the real estate tycoon was encountering with the TRNC’s Finance Ministry.

Mr Turanlı, listed by Forbes in 2007 as one of Turkey’s richest men with a net worth at the time of $800 million, provided a $250,000 “advance” following a meeting with Mr Tosunoğlu in February 2018, it was claimed.

The meeting took place after Mr Denktaş allegedly told Mr Turanlı that he could “trust” Mr Tosunoğlu and that he should work with him.

Serdar Denktaş did not link his resignation as TRNC Finance Minister on Wednesday night to the corruption allegations against him

The $750,000 was to be Mr Tosunoğlu’s “fee” for providing a “consultancy service” to Mr Turanlı, reports alleged.

The allegations surfaced before Mr Denktaş announced later on Wednesday that he was standing down as the TRNC’s Finance Minister, although he did not link his resignation to the claims.

Mr Turanlı, 56, is the chairman of Turkey’s Taşyapı Group, which in 2012 won a contract from the TRNC government to build a terminal and runway for Ercan airport, at a cost of around 300 million euros.

The new terminal building is expected to open at the end of 2019, a year behind schedule.