Watch company contradicts former Turkish minister’s defense over bribing claims

Watch company contradicts former Turkish minister’s defense over bribing claims

Watch company contradicts former Turkish minister’s defense over bribing claims

Former Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan shows the bill of the watch to deputies during the parliamentary session on graft allegations, May 7. AP Photo

Statements made by former Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan during a special parliamentary session on corruption accusations against himself and three other ex-Cabinet members have been contradicted by the company that produced an expensive watch that attracted scrutiny with the Dec. 17 probe.

Answering claims about being bribed by Iranian-born Azeri businessman Reza Zarrab, who has emerged as the main suspect in the graft investigation, with a watch worth 700,000 Turkish Liras, Çağlayan said he had paid the entire sum himself even though the bill was not in his name.

“Zarrab bought the watch, but I paid for it. The guarantee certificate is in my name,” Çağlayan told deputies during his defense May 5.

But the watch company, Patek Phillipe, said guarantee certificates did not bear anyone’s name.
“The names and titles of our clients as everything required by the law are strictly written on the bills. But we don’t put names on guarantee certificates. Only the number of precious stones, the carat of the gold, the serial number, the date of production and the period of the guarantee figure are on the guarantee certificate,” the company said in a statement to daily Aydınlık in a report published May 7.

“Names are not written on the guarantee certificate on the grounds that the person who bought the watch might offer it as a gift. A person who owns the guarantee certificate [might not be] the buyer,” it said.

Minister’s ad explanation also denied

The company also denied that they had run newspaper advertisements on their custom watches as Çağlayan had claimed.

The former minister told deputies that he had seen the watch in an advertisement published in a newspaper and liked it a lot.

“I contacted the company and they told me they were customized. Following that, a company official called me asking me if I was considering buying it. Zarrab was also there during the conversation. He told me that they had an officer there and could send me the watch,” Çağlayan said.

However, according to the company, customized watches are only advertised in a special magazine. “In many countries, there are intermediary firms that buy our watches. We don’t give any advertisement in any country. Our company has published a magazine since 1996. Our customers follow our products from the magazine. We also inform our customers via e-mail when we produce a special watch,” the company’s statement said.

Following the marathon session, Parliament eventually voted in favor of establishing an inquiry commission to probe the claims against the four ex-ministers.