Suspect could serve time for sneaking Turks into Germany in passport scam: prosecutor

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German prosecutor Thomas Klinge on Thursday said a person suspected of assisting Turks enter Germany under false pretenses could be convicted and sentenced to prison if the evidence against him proves to be solid enough, the Evrensel daily reported.

Although the prosecutor declined to give any names, the suspect whom Klinge investigated and charged with involvement in a scam to sneak Turks into Europe on official gray passports under the guise of a municipal social project is believed to be Ersin Kilit, a 39-year-old Turkish entrepreneur from Hannover, Evrensel said.

The gray passports, also known as service passports, provide visa-free entry to various countries and can be issued in Turkey for people on official assignment, while municipalities can also request a passport for anyone who takes part in any official trip.

The incident became public after the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) recently revealed that more than 40 people were sent by Malatya province’s Yeşilyurt district municipality to Hannover to attend an environmental workshop held by German company Mega Kilit GmbH between Sept. 15 and 27, 2020 and never returned.

Klinge told Evrensel that the suspect facilitated a 90-day stay in Germany for 53 Turks to attend events related to a municipal project. Forty-six arrived in Germany, five of whom applied for asylum, the prosecutor said, adding that they had discovered the project for which the Turks came to Germany was never put into practice.

Noting that they have no information yet on the other 41 individuals who came to Germany, Klinge emphasized that the suspect might be convicted and sentenced to prison for running a passport scam if the evidence against him holds up.

When asked whether they found any links between those who had been sneaked into Germany via gray passports and Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, the prosecutor replied that they didn’t have any information regarding such a connection, Evrensel said.

After the incident became public over a week ago, Turkey’s Interior Ministry launched an investigation into the alleged passport scam in Malatya, which was followed by probes into a number of other district municipalities in the country’s Balıkesir, Adıyaman, Burdur, Yozgat, Şanlıurfa and Ordu provinces over similar accusations related to municipal events scheduled to be held abroad.

Cemal Bozoğlu, a member of the Bavarian state parliament from the Green Party, claimed in a parliamentary question that Ali Ayrancı, a former district mayor of Bingöl province from the ruling AKP, was the one who controlled the network behind the scam that allowed dozens of Turks to enter Germany without visas, according to Evrensel’s report.

Bozoğlu told Evrensel that he found out that Türkgücü München, a German football club association from Munich also attempted to bring 37 AKP members from Urfa province to Germany for a 10-day stay via gray passports back in February 2020. When the parliamentary question is answered, we’ll learn whether those AKP members were actually able to come here, he said.

Local AKP administrators were alleged to be at the center of passport scams claimed to have been taking place in multiple provinces, Evrensel said, adding that Gökay Akbulut, an MP from Germany’s Left Party, was preparing to ask in a parliamentary question whether it is true that gray passports were provided to Turkish citizens in return for between $5,000 and $8,000.

Last week Turkey’s Interior Ministry announced a temporary suspension of the issuance of gray passports to people who are not civil servants to prevent abuse following the scandal in Malatya.

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