An İstanbul court ruled to block a number of online news stories about Finance Minister Berat Albayrak’s land purchase around the planned route of the Kanal İstanbul project, the Diken news website reported on Thursday.
The reports revealed that Albayrak had purchased land around the canal’s projected area in 2012, a year after the plan was made public by the government.
The claims were confirmed by a statement released by Albayrak’s lawyer.
Kanal İstanbul is an artificial sea-level waterway bisecting the European side of İstanbul to connect the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara and the Mediterranean, scheduled to be completed by 2023.
The project, announced in 2011 by then-Prime Minister and Albayrak’s father-in-law Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is intended to provide relief to shipping traffic through the Bosporus, particularly oil tankers.
The 45-kilometer (28 mile) canal will have a capacity of 160 vessels a day. Critics argue that the project will adversely affect the environment and put İstanbul’s water supply in danger.
The project has recently come to public attention, with Erdoğan and government officials insisting that they will proceed with their plan to construct it and the popular mayor of İstanbul, Ekrem İmamoğlu, fiercely opposing it.
The country’s Land Registry and Cadaster General Directorate recently decided to prevent municipalities from accessing land registry information after it was revealed by several reports in the Turkish media that a number of Arab nationals and companies from the oil-rich Gulf region had purchased a significant amount of land around the project site.