Cigarettes smuggled from Georgia, Northern Iraq, Bulgaria
Smuggled cigarettes arrive in Turkey from Georgia, northern Iraq and Bulgaria, while there are large sums of money being transferred from the eastern parts of Turkey to Istanbul in line with smuggling activities, according to recent data from Turkey’s financial crime investigation board (MASAK), daily Milliyet has reported.
Additionally, close ties were detected between some of the smugglers and extensions of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Europe, according to the report.
The inspectors from the MASAK and the Turkish Customs Ministry prepared a detailed report on
the smuggled cigarette flow into Turkey.
There has been a huge increase in the amount of smuggled cigarettes in Turkey in the last few years, so the official authorities have put this issue under closer focus. The recent official reports were prepared after months of detailed investigations.
Cigarettes smuggled to southern province
A large volume of cigarettes were smuggled from northern Iraq, Georgia and Bulgaria to the southern province of Mersin as well as several eastern, Black Sea and southeastern provinces, before they spread across to the country, mainly to Istanbul, according to the official report.
The most common brand in the smuggled cigarettes market was owned by the Bulgartabac company, which sold its cigarettes, under the brand name Prestige, to Salam Qader Faraj in northern Iraq, according to the report.
The inspectors examined the consignment bills of the cigarettes in the Mersin Port and discovered the intermediary firm had close ties with Arbil-based Eagle Group, which was owned by Nihat and Serdar Barzani.
The inspectors learned the intermediary firm also played a role in transferring money through the European extensions of the PKK to their cadres in the northern Iraq, according to the report.
The notification address on the consignment bills of the cigarettes was registered to the Kar Foreign Trade Company, which was founded by Faruk Mustafa Rasool, Ömer H. Ahmad and Hiwa M. Rauf Ali. This company was found to be in close relations with the Eagle Group.
A majority of the cigarettes, which were produced in Bulgaria, Germany, Greece and Turkey, were sold legally to several companies in northern Iraq, including Salem Qader Faraj, Tarık Abdullah Amin and Dolovan Sadeeq Farman.
These cigarettes were transferred across the border from Iraq and Iran to Turkey through the country’s eastern and southeastern provinces. The money in these smuggling activities was laundered via several exchange offices in Istanbul and the eastern province of Ağrı.
Money transfer from eastern city to Istanbul
According to the reports, two companies were established in Iraq to smuggle cigarettes, under the names of T.A.A. and D.S.F., with serious inconsistencies between the trade volume and the equity base of these companies. T.A.A. transferred higher amounts of money from Turkey than it was actually owed for the goods it had sent to the country.
There was a huge sum of money transferred from Ağrı to Istanbul, worth some 500 million Turkish Liras, which was converted into cash by the partners of the exchange office, according to the investigation.
The MASAK inspectors also followed the assets of the real and legal persons involving in the smuggling activities. At the same time, the Customs Ministry inspectors acquired crucial information and documents regarding the smugglers’ activities abroad.
According to reports sent by the inspectors to the then Specially Authorized Court of Serious Crimes in 2012, it was documented that alcoholic drinks had been smuggled via Georgia and cigarettes via Georgia, northern Iraq and Iran.
Turkish police seized 99.1 million packs of cigarettes in 2012 alone, according to the most recent statistics. This was 69.7 million packs in 2011.
According to data provided by Turkey’s Tobacco and Alcohol Market Regulatory Authority (TAPDK), the sale of smuggled cigarettes is particularly high in southeastern Turkey, the first destination of smugglers through the southern and southeastern borders.