Namık Tan, Turkey’s former ambassador to the United States, has confirmed claims that global ridesharing company Uber had in 2016 hired a company jointly run by him and the then-head of the Turkish American Businessmen’s Association for $35,000 a month for three months to help obtain a license to operate in Turkey, the T24 news website reported on Tuesday.
According to the Uber Files published by Deutsche Welle Turkish service on Sunday, the San Francisco-based Uber secretly lobbied Turkish officials and hired well-connected lobbyists to legalize its rideshare operations in Turkey, with Tan and Ekim Alptekin’s company NT Consultancy one of them.
The efforts eventually failed.
Soon after it began operating in Turkey in 2014 through a legal loophole, Uber launched an aggressive lobbying campaign to obtain licensing, contacting people with close ties to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, including top government officials such as then-deputy prime minister Ali Babacan and economy minister Mehmet Şimşek, DW said.
As part of its lobbying efforts in Turkey, Uber hired NT Consultancy in 2016, paying them $105,000 in total to help obtain a license in the country, a claim confirmed by Tan, who on Tuesday told T24 that they signed a three-month contract with Uber after he was contacted by David Plouffe, a senior adviser to then-US president Barack Obama.
“It has been five years since the aforementioned company closed down. … What is said in the news is true. We signed a contract. … And I still believe that Uber should be allowed here. But we weren’t successful. The taxi driver lobby in Turkey, which is powerful, opposed it. We even talked to them and their representatives, too, so as to work with them. But we didn’t succeed,” Tan said.
The DW report also cited Uber executives as saying that “pro-government” Habertürk daily columnist Fatih Altaylı had published two articles to present positive coverage of Uber, a claim that was denied by the columnist.
Altaylı on Tuesday told T24 that he had “written no favorable columns about Uber,” urging people to check the archives to find the articles he did write.
Uber’s lobbying efforts failed as a local court banned the company’s website in October 2019 for using vehicles that have tourism transportation licenses for taxi operations. In 2020, another local court lifted the ban on the condition that it work with local taxi drivers, who were behind a fierce campaign that pushed the ride-hailing giant out of the market in the first place.
Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government consistently sided with taxi drivers in the years-long feud between Uber and the local taxi unions.