ANKARA, 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 and rattled the government.
The resignations include Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan, Interior Minister Muammer Guler and Erdogan Bayraktar, the environment and urban planning minister Erdogan Bayraktar — who also called on Erdogan to step down while announcing his resignation and exposing a deep rift with the Turkish leader.
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 arrested on bribery charges. Bayraktar's son, Abdullah Oguz, was detained as part of the probe but later released from custody.
Media reports said police seized $4.5 million in cash that was stashed in shoe boxes at the home of the bank's CEO, while more than 1 million dollars in cash was reportedly discovered in the home of Guler's son.
Erdogan has denounced the corruption probe 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 elections since 2002 on the strength of the economy, a clean image and a promise to fight corruption.
The probe is one of the biggest political challenges Erdogan has faced since his Islamic-based party narrowly escaped being disbanded in 2008 for allegedly undermining Turkey's secular Constitution.