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Turkey arrests 2 on suspicion of running passport scam to enter Europe

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Two of six suspects detained in a gendarmerie operation in northwestern Tekirdağ province targeting a group of people suspected of running a scam to provide gray passports to enter Europe have been arrested, local media reported on Thursday.

The six suspects, identified only by the initials S.B., S.G., A.Y., Ü.B., S.V. and S.G., were detained in an operation carried out by the gendarmerie in coordination with the Tekirdağ Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. One suspect was able to evade authorities and remains at large.

While two of the six detainees suspected of facilitating the issuance of gray passports to sneak Turks into Europe in return for €6,000 ($7,258), identified as S.V. and S.G., were arrested by a local court and jailed in Tekirdağ, the remainder were released pending trial and placed under judicial supervision.

What recently turned out to be a string of incidents of alleged passport scams carried out across Turkey so that dozens of Turks could enter Europe on gray passports using official projects and events scheduled abroad as a pretext was initially revealed by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).

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 CHP recently claimed 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.

After the incident was exposed 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 provinces that include Balıkesir, Adıyaman, Burdur, Yozgat, Şanlıurfa and Ordu on similar accusations.

Last week the 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.

A senior German prosecutor has brought charges against Ersin Kilit, a 39-year-old Turkish entrepreneur from Hannover who is suspected of providing documents in the alleged scam in Malatya, Turkish media reports said.

Meanwhile Gökay Akbulut, an MP from Germany’s Left Party who has claimed that local administrators of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) were at the center of passport scams suspected to have been taking place in multiple provinces, asked 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.

According to a report by the Birgün daily on Saturday, the German Federal Government only said in response to Akbulut that they had been aware of the way Turkish citizens were able to enter the country on gray passports for a long time.

CHP lawmaker Tuncay Özkan announced in a tweet on April 21 that a parliamentary motion to investigate allegations of municipalities sneaking dozens of Turks into Europe with special passports was turned down by the ruling AKP and its ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

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