Court orders repayment of losses over seized cars
Dinçer Gökçe ISTANBULTurkey’s highest administrative court has approved a local court ruling ordering the state to pay indemnities to a woman whose luxury car was seized after the vehicle was determined to have been imported with forged documents.
The decision may affect many other cases, involving over 30,000 cars. Some 3 billion Turkish Liras might be paid to the car owners upon the court decision, according to experts.
A businesswoman who bought one of those cars, Sema Çuhadaroğlu, sued the Customs and Trade Ministry in the Aegean province of İzmir after her car was seized, with the court subsequently ordering that the owner’s losses be repaid, in addition to interest. The decision was later approved by the Council of State.
According to court files, the İzmir Chief Prosecutor’s Office began investigating a number of imported cars over allegations of impropriety, including what ultimately became Çuhadaroğlu’s car, which was imported by T.C.T Otomotiv. The company said the car was a 2005 Mercedes Benz, but Mercedes Benz Turkey subsequently told the prosecutor that the car was a 2004 model.
The prosecutor ordered the seizure of the car, as an İzmir-based court simultaneously ordered that the ownership rights of the car be transferred to the public in November 2011. Police were prevented from seizing the car, however, because it could not be located – only for Çuhadaroğlu to purchase the automobile in January 2012. After she drove the car for around 16 months, the car was seized by authorities in April 2013.
Çuhadaroğlu went to court two months following the seizure, demanding compensation for the cost of the car, around 64,000 liras, noting that she had trusted the registration documents of the car, which had changed hands around eight times. The woman further claimed authorities acted in error during the import of the car and the transfer of ownership rights.
The ministry, however, retorted, saying each imported good could not be individually checked and that the seizure was conducted based on a court decision. The ministry also subsequently asked that Çuhadaroğlu’s case be rejected.
The court disagreed, saying authorities needed to take all measures to maintain the realization of public services in an efficient way.
“If a person sustains losses from any poor handling of public services, the authorities need to meet this loss. It is the duty of the state to import a good in a safe manner. Here, the loss of the plaintiff must be repaid,” the court said.
The decision was later approved by the Council of the State.
The court decision will affect many similar cases across the country, covering around 30,000 vehicles, according to experts.