By Suzan FraserANKARA, Turkey -- Three Cabinet ministers resigned in Turkey on Wednesday, days after their sons were taken into custody in a sweeping corruption and bribery scandal that has targeted Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's allies in one of the worst political crises of his more than 10 years in power.
Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan and Interior Minister Muammer Guler announced their resignations in statements carried by the state-run Anadolu Agency. Environment and Urban Planning Minister Erdogan Bayraktar gave his resignation from both the Cabinet and Parliament in a live interview with the private NTV television during which he also urged the prime minister to step down.
All three ministers denied any wrongdoing.
Caglayan's and Guler's sons, along with the chief executive officer of the state-run bank Halkbank, are among 24 people who have been arrested on bribery charges. Bayraktar's son, Abdullah Oguz, was detained as part of the investigation but later released from custody.
Media reports said the police have seized $4.5 million in cash that was stashed in shoe boxes in the home of the bank's CEO, while more than $1 million in cash was reportedly discovered in the home of Guler's son, Baris.
Erdogan has denounced the corruption inquiry as a plot by foreign and Turkish forces to thwart his country's growing prosperity and discredit his government ahead of local elections in March. Critics accuse Erdogan of becoming increasingly authoritarian, but his government has won three successive elections since 2002 on the strength of the relatively robust economy, a clean image and a promise to fight corruption.