May 14, 2015 | Quote

No Questions Asked for Turkey’s Suitcases Full of Cash

The Turkish Ministry of Customs and Trade issued new regulations April 15 for entering and leaving Turkey with any amount of cash. The new Customs Code had passed without much public attention until early May, when the news broke with the headlines “Hot money days are over, now starts the black money days” and “Unlimited cash entry into Turkey now legalized.” 

In a rather foggy statement, Minister of Customs and Trade Nurettin Canikli said the previous code was unclear, adding there were contradictory clauses in the code, and customs personnel could not be flexible. He said they had only simplified the code. “We had many complaints from exporters bringing money into the country,” Canikli said. “It could be from various countries, such as Iran, Iraq, Syria, the Balkans, where there are no banking services. Frankly, why does it matter if the money comes in cash or through a bank as long as it is money earned from exports? If this is dirty money, it will not be allowed to enter the country. There are no changes with regard to unrecorded cash.”

Yet, all pundits whom Al-Monitor contacted — bankers, customs officials, economists, senior economy editors of reputable news networks — agreed that the vagueness was introduced with the new code, and none were able to see what was wrong with the old code. 

In the midst of an election campaign, not many Turks may be aware of this new code, but it's watched carefully in centers of commerce and security abroad.

“Until recently, Turkey was on FATF's ‘gray list’ for other systemic deficiencies,” Jonathan Schanzer, the vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington, told Al-Monitor. “But the new code could indicate a troubling setback. Practically speaking, lax policies on cash coming into Turkey could serve to benefit the wide range of illicit actors that have made Turkey their home in recent years. This includes more than a dozen members of Hamas, financiers of the Islamic State and the Nusra Front, actors who have been arming the Fajr coalition in Libya, and money launderers working with Iran. These are all terror finance challenges that Turkey has neglected to address in recent years, raising troubling questions about Turkey's will to combat them.”


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