Exporters didn’t want corruption suspect Zarrab to attend award ceremony
Vahap Munyar - ISTANBUL
CİHAN photoA number of members of Turkey’s Exporters Assembly’s (TİM) top management asked Reza Zarrab, who was embroiled in the huge corruption scandal of December 2013, to not attend a recent award ceremony in order to avoid any negative comments from the public, a source close to the matter has told daily Hürriyet.
Zarrab, however, opted to attend the ceremony on June 21, capturing headlines after his company, Volgam Gıda, was awarded as the “Turkey’s top jewelry exporter in 2014.” The reward marked a rapid rise for Zarrab, whose company did not even feature in the list of top 1,000 exporters in the previous year.
“Some members of the TİM’s top management said they had called Zarrab to ask him to not attend the award ceremony, but obviously he chose to be there personally, rather than assigning the duty to one of his top executives,” said the source.
Along with TİM President Mehmet Büyükekşi, Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş and Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci presented Zarrab with the “export champion” award for his company Volgam Gıda, involved in the jewelry sector.
However, the two Turkish government members have responded in contrasting ways to Zarrab’s controversial appearance at the ceremony, where he was awarded for his company’s high export performance.
Zeybekci said he had “no guilty conscience” over attending the ceremony, while Deputy Prime Minister Kurtulmuş voiced his regret in strongly-worded remarks, describing the award as a “fait accompli.”
Speaking to reporters only a few hours later on June 22, however, Kurtulmuş said clearly that he would not have attended the ceremony if he had known Zarrab would be involved.
“When we went to award ceremony yesterday - more precisely, when we went to the meeting - we didn’t know who we would be giving awards to and which minister would be involved,” he said, claiming that he “would not even recognize” Zarrab if he saw him on the street.
“I met with a name that I didn’t know, as a fait accompli. I wish the organizers had informed us about the people who we gave awards to. If I had known that I would give an award to him, I would not have played a part in this ‘frame.’ Believe me, the emergence of this photo bothered me the most. So I wish the organizers had regulated these [awards] in advance and we didn’t play a part in this frame,” Kurtulmuş added.