Coins tossed into Virgin Mary pond prompt tax probe in Turkey’s west
Salim Uzun - İZMİR
Authorities are investigating what happens to coins tossed into a pond that lies at the feet of a Virgin Mary statue located inside the St. John the Baptist Church in the Şirince village of the western province of İzmir.
The directorate of monuments in İzmir that has appealed to the local tax office plans to install CCTV to monitor the activities around the pond.
The immediate question the authorities are asking is who is collecting the tossed coins at the bottom of the pond which is located inside a privately-owned property in the church’s premises?
The officials from the local directorate of monuments have requested help from the local tax office to determine who is collecting the coins.
The directorate also asked the tax office whether the person or people who run the private business in the area are tax payers and if “revenues” generated from the pond are registered in tax files.
Some 1.5 million domestic and international tourists visit the church and the statute each year, throwing coins to make a wish.
The owner of a private enterprise in the church yard is allegedly collecting the coins. It is not known, however, how many coins accumulate in the pond each year.
Şirince became a tourist hotspot back in 2012 when doomsday believers flocked to this small village with a population of some 500.
Doomsday believers were convinced the Mayan calendar had predicted that the world would end on Dec. 21, 2012 and Şirince was the only safe haven from the impending apocalypse.
Who collects the coins?
Experts, who have carried out an inspection in Şirince, say that tourists show strong interest in the pond and that lots of one euro coins particularly are tossed into the pond. Based on their preliminary examinations, experts argue that a significant sum of money accumulates in the pond throughout the year.
Yonca Sengel, who runs the cafeteria that is located near the pond, says she is not aware of the inspections.
“The money collected from the pond is used for charity work in the village,” Sengel claimed.
Cemil Karabayram, the head of the directorate of monuments in İzmir, declined to comment on the ongoing official process.
“I think the business owner is taking care of the pond. I do not know if the coins accumulated there add up to a substantial sum. I know an investigation has been launched into the matter,” Karabayram said.