Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan accused political rivals of shameless fabrication of a telephone tap of him telling his son to dispose of large sums of money on the day police raided houses in a graft inquiry into his government.
In a dramatic session of parliament after posting of the 11-minute audio tape on YouTube, Erdogan said his political enemies had penetrated encrypted state communications. He did not name the opponents but made it clear he was talking of a network run by former ally, Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen.
"The people don't believe these lies," said Erdogan.
In the recordings, the voice, supposedly of Erdogan, can be heard asking his son to remove the money from his home.
At one point, the voice at the other end of the line says some 30 million euros ($40 million) remain to be disposed of.
The recordings, which appeared two days after Erdogan's AK Party officially began campaigning for local elections at the end of March, may be the latest purported revelation in a graft scandal Erdogan says is orchestrated to unseat him.
"The recordings, which were released via the Internet this evening, accompanied with the allegation that they were a telephone conversation between our Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his son, are completely untrue and the product of an immoral montage," Erdogan's office said in a statement.
"Those who created this dirty conspiracy targeting the prime minister of the Republic of Turkey will be brought to account within the law," it said.
The corruption scandal, which erupted on Dec. 17 with the detention of businessmen close to Erdogan and the sons of three ministers, has spiraled into one of the biggest challenges of his 11-year rule.
Social media and video-sharing sites have been awash with leaked recordings presented as evidence of wrongdoing. As with the latest recordings, Reuters has been unable to verify their authenticity.
Erdogan's supporters say the graft investigation was contrived by a U.S.-based cleric with influence in the police and judiciary in a bid to unseat him ahead of elections this year. The cleric, Fethullah Gulen, has denied involvement.
Also on Monday, Turkish newspaper Hurriyet Daily reported police had wiretapped 2,280 people — not just politicians but also writers, artists and others — since 2011.
The government has responded to alleged attempts to depose Erdogan by dismissing or reassigning thousands of police officers, tightening its control over the appointment of judges and prosecutors and pushing through a new law that allows the authorities to block access to websites within hours without a prior court order.
Al Jazeera and Reuters