Former CEO of Turkey’s Halkbank released
ISTANBUL - The former CEO of Turkey's state-run Halkbank, who was arrested two months ago in a wide-ranging graft probe engulfing key government allies, has been released pending trial on Friday, media said.
Suleyman Aslan was among 24 people including the sons of three former cabinet ministers who were charged and remanded in custody as part of three separate investigations into bribery allegations.
Aslan was charged with corruption, fraud and money laundering in connection with illegal gold sales to sanctions-hit Iran in return for energy imports.
An Istanbul court released Aslan -- the first high-profile suspect to be freed -- and eight others on condition of judicial control and enforced travel ban on them, Hurriyet daily reported on its website.
Police had seized $4.5 million in cash hidden in shoe boxes in Aslan's house, but the former CEO stated that he was holding onto the money for charity.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan also said the cash found in Aslan's house was not the bank's money and alleged that Halkbank was targeted by international plotters.
Aslan was replaced as head of the company earlier this month.
The damaging corruption scandal erupted on December 17 when police arrested dozens of people suspected of a raft of offences including accepting and facilitating bribes for development projects and securing construction permits for protected areas.
The scandal posed one of the most severe challenges to Erdogan's 11-year rule ahead of key local polls next month, prompted a cabinet reshuffle and sent the Turkish currency to all-time lows.
Erdogan accused supporters of rival Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen who wields considerable influence in the judiciary and police of launching the investigation as part of a "coup plot" against his government.
The firebrand prime minister has retaliated by sacking thousand of police officers -- more than 6,000 according to media estimates -- judges, prosecutors as well as lawyers leading the graft probe.