Atatürk Airport officials arrested

FOLLOWING six months of police monitoring Customs officials at Istanbul’s main Atatürk Airport have been arrested on charges of bribery.

Police have so far arrested Customs department head Lutfi Ekinci and two other officials.

The Customs officials are charged with giving and receiving bribes and breaking smuggling laws at Atatürk Airport Cargo Customs Center, Ambarli Customs House and several other customs coordinators operating out of the international airport.

Police suspect that officials received kickback payments from companies to help them avoid tax. Another 41 people questioned by police also face prosecution but have been freed while awaiting trial. Detainees included the manager of the Istanbul Customs House, four high-level customs officers, 19 security guards and 10 customs agents.

Investigators say customs officials, both chiefs and petty officers, kept goods from importing companies waiting at the red zone, reserved for goods whose entry into Turkey are legal, and only processed and moved these to the green zone when the company paid. Investigators say each customs official had a minimum bribe quota to fill, assigned to them by their superiors. The money collected by customs officials would then be allocated on a rank basis every week.

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