Rector faces ruin in palace tax row

December 19, 2003

The rector of Istanbul University may lose his passport and faces huge fines in a row with the Turkish government over unpaid taxes relating to a former palace used for staff and alumni events.

Kemal Alemdaroglu, a distinguished surgeon, and the rest of the university board are being held liable for taxes that may run to millions of dollars.

The tax investigation is widely seen as the latest battle in a conflict between the university and the government.

Istanbul, the largest university in the country, has been in the forefront of enforcing a ban on students and staff wearing religious headscarves.

Professor Alemdaroglu has strongly opposed the Islamic-oriented government's attempts to relax the ban.

The dispute centres on a former Ottoman palace on the Bosphorus that has been used for entertaining staff and alumni. The Istanbul tax authority claims the building was used for commercial functions and is seeking several million dollars in unpaid taxes.

The authorities hold the university board and the rector personally liable for the debt.

The building has been seized by finance minister Kemal Unakitan despite a legal challenge by Professor Alemdaroglu.

Mr Unakitan said: "It makes me angry that such a beautiful building is only used by university staff and former students. It should be open to everyone."

The building is expected to be sold as a hotel and the tax authority has opened court proceedings against Professor Alemdaroglu. It has demanded his passport along with his bankbooks and the deeds to his own villa.

Professor Alemdaroglu is a noted academic surgeon and travels frequently.

But his secretary said this week: "The rector has no plans to leave the country."

Similar sanctions are expected against other university board members.

The university board had tried to reduce its liability by attempting to use university land as payment for the tax debt, but the finance ministry blocked that move.

Last month, the Turkish Doctors' Union honour committee barred Professor Alemdaroglu from practising as a surgeon for two months after allegations of plagiarism and also called for his dismissal as a rector.

After a three-year investigation, Professor Alemdaroglu was found to have taken credit for a US-published book on surgery, New Methods in Laparoscopy . According to the union, Professor Alemdaroglu put his name, along with those of two other doctors, to a Turkish translation of the book. The name of the original author, Philippe Jean Quilici, was not published.

In 2002, Lou Bloomfield, professor of physics at the University of Virginia, complied with a request by the US copyright holders to remove both the original and the allegedly plagiarised versions of New Methods in Laparoscopy from a website devoted to publicising apparent cases of plagiarism.

The Plagiarism Resource Site is at www.plagiarism.phys.virginia.edu

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