Ousted Turkish Trade Minister Ruhsar Pekcan allegedly tried to smuggle tax-free goods into the country by using First Lady Emine Erdoğan's name in 2016, journalist İsmail Saymaz from daily Sözcü reported on April 30.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan removed Pekcan from office on April 21 after reports surfaced that Pekcan's Nanoksia Biotechnology Corp. overcharged the Turkish government for disinfectant materials.
First Lady Erdoğan's private secretary in 2016, Sema Silkin Ün told Saymaz that she had at the time heard from someone working at the Customs General Directorate that Pekcan tried to evade taxes by telling the customs officers she was close with Erdoğan.
"It was a serious report," Ün said. "We didn't know who Ruhsar Pekcan was back then. I immediately told the office of the Trade Minister at the time."
Ün informed then-Trade Minister Bülent Tüfenkci's private secretary that Erdoğan had no connection to Pekcan, and that they wouldn't have allowed such an act if they knew of it.
Customs General Directorate records show that the report that Ün had received was delivered to all customs offices around the country a day after, but Ün doesn't know what happened afterwards, as she parted ways with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Asked by Saymaz if Emine Erdoğan was notified of Pekcan's alleged attempt, Ün said the First Lady didn't know who Pekcan was at the time.
"I probably had told Emine Erdoğan, 'There is a businesswoman, it appears she is using your name.' However, she was not someone we knew of. Ms. Emine does not allow such incidents anyway [smuggling of goods into country]," Ün said.