Aykan Erdemir: Libyan Plane Helped Iran Circumvent US Sanctions – Al Marsad

Turkey’s leading independent press Platform 24 published a report on Monday on the contradictory statements by Turkish officials on the fate of a Libyan aircraft suspected of smuggling Iranian cash in 2014.

[Libya, 20 August 2019] – Former Turkish MP and senior researcher at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, Aykan Erdemir, indicated that according to Platform 24, contradictory statements issued by Turkish officials regarding a Libyan plane suspected of smuggling Iranian money in 2014, have caused parliamentary debate over whether the Islamist Justice and Development Party led by its Chairman, the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has helped Iran circumvent sanctions.

The report noted that an investigation into the Libyan plane that was loaded with US banknotes has not been covered by any mainstream Turkish media.

The debate goes back to 12 December 2014, when Mahmut Tanal, a parliamentarian from Turkey’s pro-secular Republican People’s Party, made the headlines in the Turkish press with his statement that a Libyan plane had airlifted a massive shipment of US cash from Iran to Turkey. Tanal informed the Turkish authorities that a Buraq Air plane took off from Ahwaz International Airport in the Islamic Republic of Iran, and was going to land in Ankara with four tons of U.S. banknotes. The cargo manifest showed a shipment of kiwi fruit on board of the Libyan plane, but Turkey’s Minister of Customs and Trade at that time, Nurettin Canikli, stated that the only plane belonging to the Libyan airliner, Buraq Air, that arrived in Turkey around that time was carrying 19 tons of cigarettes.

The report mentioned that on 18 January 2014, Tanal submitted parliamentary questions to both the Minister of Customs and Trade, Nurettin Canikli, and the Minister of Transportation, Lutfi Elvan. Tanal asked Canikli to provide the manifest, flight path, and cargo of the Buraq Air flight. The member of the Turkish Parliament likewise asked Elvan to provide the same information for all flights that were chartered by the Islamic Republic to Turkey since the AKP came to power in 2002. The Turkish Minister of Transportation at the time, however, abstained from answering Tanal’s question, whereas the Customs and Trade Minister only answered a month after the inquiry, stating that x-ray scans of the cargo revealed that the plane was carrying cigarettes only.

Buraq Air

Aykan Erdemir added that this controversy resurfaced again last month after a hearing of the Turkish Parliament’s Human Rights Commission when Tanal inquired about the problem of cigarette smuggling from Iran to Turkey.

Deputy Governor of the Turkish General Directorate of Security, Erhan Gulveren, claimed that there have been no recorded cases in recent years of cigarettes smuggling by planes. Earlier this month, the MP from the Republican People’s Party submitted two parliamentary questions to the Ministry of Commerce as well as the Ministry of Transportation on a potential government cover-up of Iran’s illicit financial flows to determine the Libyan Buraq Air cargo in December 2014, which was reportedly seized by Turkish authorities in Istanbul. Nonetheless, no official answer was given to the Turkish member of the Parliament.

According to Aykan Erdemir, given the government’s almost total control of Turkish media, investigative journalists are unlikely to be allowed to probe further into this highly sensitive case, at least from Ankara’s perspective, unless they find an independent media platform to report their findings.

Erdemir concluded his report by confirming that since the country’s June 2018 elections, Erdogan’s government has failed to answer more than half of the 13,488 parliamentary questions submitted, and Tanal’s renewed investigation is likely to meet the same fate. The former Turkish MP said the challenge of illicit funding continues in Turkey, which has become a permissive environment for many rogue players besides the Islamic Republic of Iran.

© Al Marsad English. 2019.