An opposition mayor of Turkey’s northwestern province of Yalova has been ousted from his post over charges of embezzlement and bid-rigging, Turkish Interior Ministry announced on Thursday.
The statement by the ministry said Vefa Salman, Yalova’s mayor from the main Republican People’s Party (CHP), was suspended as an interim measure in line with an investigation launched by the Yalova Public Prosecutor’s Office.
Earlier in the month, four mayoral officials – the Deputy Mayor Halit Gulec, Senay Reyhan Kas, Resat Elgin, and Bahar Taskomur – had been arrested over multiple charges, including aggravated fraud, forgery of official documents, extortion, embezzlement, and malpractice.
According to the statement, the ministry inspectors had found out that most of the municipal incomes were collected in an irregular process in a municipal account normally used for taxes and fees before nearly 11.5 million lira ($1.85 million) were transferred to people who had not rendered any services or provide any supplies to the municipality.
The account was used over the course of two and a half years for the sham transactions for which the mayor was also responsible, the ministry said.
Speaking to KRT TV, the ousted mayor said there had been nothing lawful in the investigation process so far.
“We are experiencing politicization [through the probe]. Allegations are not correct. My friends [mayoral officials] have found out the corruption but not the [state] controllers. I ordered that a criminal complaint be filed in that regard,” Salman said.
The CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu also condemned the removal of the mayor, saying it showed the lack of understanding of the law by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
“We never accept this unfair and unlawful decision which is already void in the eye of our nation!” Kilicdaroglu said.