The Atasehir district municipality of Istanbul, which is run by a mayor from the centre-left Republican People’s Party (CHP) Battal Ilgezdi, has faced serious corruption allegations in recent weeks.
Ilgezdi is accused of using his post to buy a number of luxury residences, employ acquaintances in the municipality and allowing unfair competition in municipal tenders.
The allegations began with Turkish media reports that Ilgezdi and his wife Gamze Akkus Ilgezdi, who is newly elected parliamentary deputy for the CHP, owns 15 luxurious flats worth millions of liras in two skyscrapers in the district where Ilgezdi is a mayor in Istanbul.
The Ilgezdi couple's ownership of 15 luxury flats created controversy and raised questions over how they accumulated their wealth.
Ilgezdi applied to the public prosecutor's office on July 13 along with the CHP's provincial chairman, Murat Karayalcin, in order for the allegations of him illegally purchasing luxury apartments could be investigated.
Following the application, the Interior Ministry also launched an investigation on July 14 into the municipality over corruption claims.
The corruption claims deepened after Turkish daily Hurriyet published a comprehensive report regarding the allegations concerning the municipality.
According to Hurriyet, former contractor Ilgezdi - who owns a 50-percent share in the Erguvan Construction Company - was elected as mayor of the Atasehir district municipality in 2009 and re-elected in 2014.
Ilgezdi employed Ali Emrah Buyuk, who owns a 50-percent share in the Buyuk Uzunlar Construction Company, as municipality council zoning commission president.
In March 2010 Ilgezdi was also authorised by the city council to develop an empty zone into a park and recreation area. After 19 days, the Buz Construction Company was established by Ali Emrah Buyuk and his business partners from the Buyuk Uzunlar Construction Company.
The municipality decided to hold a tender through an invitation system for the development and management of facilities to be built in the park area. The Buz company won the tender in the second round in which three other companies competed.
The Buz company is said to have paid 4.5 million Turkish liras ($1.69 million), along with an annual rent fee of 39,000 Turkish liras and 1.02 percent of all revenues in exchange for 30-year management of 53 decares of land located in the center of an upscale neighbourhood.
However, Hurriyet newspaper suggests that Buz managed to recover the tender fee in a very short time with rental revenues of four different restaurants and paid car parks which were established in the park area called “Erguvan Peace Park” - bearing the same name as Ilgezdi’s former construction company.
Following the establishment of the park, Ilgezdi sold the development rights of the land that he personally owned in return for flats in May 2011. The rights were bought by Buyuk Uzunlar Construction Company, which is owned by Ali Emrah Buyuk - the municipality council zoning commission president.
Ilgezdi and his wife Akkus-Ilgezdi owned 17 luxury flats in a building named "Buz Residence" which was built by the Buyuk Uzunlar company on Ilgezdi’s former land. Later on, Ilgezdi sold two of the flats and registered the others under his wife and daughters.
After the allegations hit the headlines in Turkey, Ilgezdi denied claims of corruption, saying that he was already wealthy due to owning the Erguvan Construction Company which had built more than 1,400 apartment buildings before he became mayor.
Along with her husband, Akkus-Ilgezdi was also accused of corruption. However, Ilgezdi dismissed the allegations and stated that she declared her wealth during her 21 years of public service.
Since the start of corruption allegations emerging over the ownership of the luxurious flats, Ilgezdi has defended himself by saying that he bought the land in which the building is erected five years before he was elected as mayor of the Atasehir district.
Saying that he left Erguvan's management board after being elected mayor, Ilgezdi stated, “I bought some assets in 2004 and I gave a plot of land in the Kucukbakkalkoy neighbourhood of Atasehir in exchange for 17 apartments. It has nothing to do with my position as mayor.”