Turkey comes across biggest smuggling case to date

Turkey comes across biggest smuggling case to date

Burak Coşan / Dinçer Gökçe MERSİN / ISTANBUL
Turkey comes across biggest smuggling case to date

Customs Minister Nurettin Canikli is seeking to beef up moves against meat smuggling. AA Photo

Turkey has launched a major operation aimed at bringing down a suspected gang that illegally brought in over 1,000 tons of beef from Paraguay, the customs minister has said, describing the haul as Turkey’s biggest ever smuggling case.        

Turkish investors last week carried out raids on five storage spaces in the southern city of Mersin, where 1,044 tons of smuggled red meat had been stored, said Customs Minister Nurettin Canikli.
“The meat was supposedly going to Syria and Iraq through the border gate of Cilvegözü, according to the customs documents. We, however, discovered that almost all of the meat was sold on the Turkish market without any duty being paid,” he said.

The unnamed perpetrators instead smuggled tons of falsely-labelled products which were a mixture of chicken meat and bones.      

“This is the biggest smuggling case of goods we’ve ever come across in Turkey to date,” Canikli said.
It was also seen that some of the meat was sold to luxury restaurants for 20 Turkish Liras, much lower than the standard 50 liras. The smuggled meat was worth more than 40 million liras ($17.6 million), said the authorities.

Police had temporarily detained 11 people, including the former head of the customs office in Mersin, as well as customs and cargo clearance officers.   

The minister said an investigation has been launched to smash the ring. Violators would face up to seven years in jail if found guilty.

According to a 2013 report from the Agricultural Association of Turkey, some 30 percent of the meat consumed in the country is illegally smuggled.  A shortage of domestically produced meat has led to imports, and some have sought to avoid high duties through smuggling.