Turkey’s Smuggling and Organized Crimes Department has detained 48 people, including the head of European Tobacco’s local branch, in raids across the country to combat the bootlegging of cigarettes.
Turkish police had been monitoring European Tobacco’s activities and transactions of the company for almost 14 months before swooping Saturday to detain the 48, including European Tobacco board member Hulusi Kaymaz, who is also the general manager of the company’s plant in the southern province of Mersin.
European Tobacco, which handles approximately 9 percent of Turkey’s annual cigarette production volume, allegedly evaded approximately 10 million Turkish Liras in taxes by marketing cigarettes which were originally registered as exports in the Turkish market without notifying Turkish authorities.
Police also seized 3,000 packages of cigarettes and 45 bottles of bootlegged alcohol in the operations, which were carried out in the provinces of Istanbul, İzmir, Adana and 12 others.
Speaking to Anatolia news agency in an interview last year, Kaymaz complained about the recent tax increases on cigarettes, saying the increase would lead to more bootlegging and adding that such illicit cigarettes would severely harm Turkey’s economy because they would generate no tax revenue.
Nearly 15 percent of the country consumes bootlegged cigarettes, Kaymaz said. “Our country loses approximately $1.5 billion in tax income due to illegal activities.”