Former economy minister pays fine for watch allegedly given as a bribe

Former economy minister pays fine for watch allegedly given as a bribe

Nuray Babacan / Hacer Boyacıoğlu ANKARA
Former economy minister pays fine for watch allegedly given as a bribe

Former Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan has earned a reputation as a watch aficionado.

Former Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan has paid 250,000 Turkish Liras as a customs fine for a much-debated luxury watch, which became one of the symbols of Turkey’s massive corruption probe last December.

Çağlayan paid the 250,000-lira fine that was given by the Customs and Trade Ministry over actions that were contrary to the customs legislation.

He was accused in the graft investigation of accepting a bribe from Reza Zarrab of a customized watch worth 700,000 liras (around $300,000). Çağlayan said in a special parliamentary session that he had paid for the entire sum himself, even though the bill was not in his name.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Ali Özgündüz had filed a parliamentary question for the customs and trade minister to answer about the value added tax, fines and interest payments the watch would have.

Then-Minister for Customs and Trade Hayati Yazıcı responded that he had given instructions to an inspection division and that the investigation was continuing. The investigation, which was finalized under current Customs and Trade Minister Nurettin Canikli, concluded in a fine for the watch, as there were elements contradicting the customs legislation.

Çağlayan initially objected to the "unfair" decision, but eventually had to pay the 250,000 liras as his objection was rejected.

The Istanbul prosecutor ruled on Oct. 17 not to proceed against 53 graft suspects, including the sons of four former ministers, the former manager of state-run Halkbank, and Zarrab. With the decision to drop the case, the final part of the legal scandal that had been dogging President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s inner circle since late 2013 was buried, while the snail-paced parliamentary inquiry continues.

The smaller of two dossiers in the graft affair was the Dec. 25, 2013 probe that concerned the alleged awarding of illegal permits in building projects. In that dossier, prosecutors in May dismissed the case against all 60 suspects, among them a former minister’s son and a construction tycoon.