President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu have engaged in a fresh row over allegations of fraud in a private university, with the latter urging the former to declare his assets.
The recent rift stemmed from the ongoing problems between Turkey’s state-owned Halkbank and private Şehir University, of which Davutoğlu was among the founders, regarding the university’s land.
Halkbank took the university to court due to its inability to pay the loans it received back, prompting authorities to freeze the assets of Şehir University.
The incident occurred amid efforts to found a new party by Davutoğlu, who worked with Erdoğan between 2003 and 2016.
During a speech on Dec. 7, Erdoğan accused the former prime minister of attempting to defraud Halkbank in bid to save Şehir University from financial crisis, while refraining from mentioning Davutoğlu’s name.
“The allocation of Şehir University was done by me during my prime ministry. This person [Davutoğlu] then turned the allocation to a transfer of ownership when he became prime minister,” Erdoğan told members of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Istanbul, as he also slammed former deputy prime ministers Mehmet Şimşek and Ali Babacan, who is also making preparations to launch a new party, over siding with Davutoğlu.
“They are trying to defraud Halkbank. They request a loan from the bank. The bank gives them a significant amount, but they fail to pay back,” he also said.
Davutoğlu released a written response a short while after Erdoğan’s speech, saying that a parliamentary commission should be established in order to examine the assets of all presidents, prime ministers and their relatives.
Saying that the reasons for why Şehir University is facing troubles are known by the public, Davutoğlu noted that the transfer of ownership didn’t lead to the land being used for purposes other than education.
“No matter the injustices committed against Şehir University, these days will pass and its ideals based on freedom of thought will continue to live. What makes a university is not the land or buildings, but the social environment composed of academics and students,” Davutoğlu said.
“Those who assess every land they see in terms of dollars can’t understand this,” he added.
In his written statement, Davutoğlu slammed Erdoğan’s wording for being “incompatible with basic rules of kindness,” adding that he finds the row “meaningful.”
“My call is clear: If a prime minister who devoted himself to serving this country is accused of being a fraudster, then the assets and the changes in assets of all presidents, prime ministers, ministers in charge of public banks, authorities who served in the privatization high council and their first and second degree relatives should be investigated in commissions that will be established in parliament,” he said, adding that he doesn’t “abstain for a minute” from answering to parliament.
“The assets and resources that can’t be explained under objective legal criteria needs to be transferred to the Treasury,” he also said.