Turkish opposition asks gov't why it lifted tariff on cheese from Venezuela last year

Turkey's opposition DEVA has asked the government in a parliamentary motion why it lifted the tariff imposed on cheese from Venezuela last year. DEVA's motion came among mafia leader Sedat Peker's claims that former Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım's son Erkan Yıldırım is part of a major cocaine trafficking ring from Venezuela to Turkey.

DEVA MP Mustafa Yeneroğlu is seen addressing parliament in this file photo.

Duvar English

Turkey's opposition Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA) has submitted a parliamentary motion asking Trade Minister Mehmet Muş why his ministry last year lifted the tariff imposed on cheese from Venezuela.

DEVA MP Mustafa Yeneroğlu recalled in his motion that Ankara in August 2020 issued a presidential decree allowing the import of several food products, including cheese, from Venezuela at zero tariff.

“Why was the customs tariff decreased to zero for the import of fresh cheese, melted cheese and other kinds of cheese? Following this implementation, how many tons of cheese have been imported from Venezuela?” Yeneroğlu asked.

Main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) also took this issue to the agenda of parliament, asking Minister Muş if there are politicians, bureaucrats or their relatives among the company owners who are importing cheese from Venezuela.

“After the customs agreement was struck, which of the companies' trade facilities have increased with Venezuela? Are there politicians, bureaucrats or their relatives known by the public who are on the board of management of these firms?” CHP MP Ali Haydar Hakverdi asked in his motion.

The two parliamentary motions were submitted after mafia leader Sedat Peker on May 23 accused former Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım's son Erkan Yıldırım of visiting Venezuela in January and February this year to form a new drug trafficking route following a raid in Colombia last year in which authorities seized 4.9 tons of cocaine headed for Turkey. 

In response to Peker's claims, Binali Yıldırım confirmed that his son had visited the Venezuelan capital Caracas but was there to “deliver COVID-19 test kits” in person.

"My son indeed went to Venezuela, but not in January or February. He went there in December last year. He distributed test kits, masks and other stuff to those in need as part of the struggle against COVID-19," Yıldırım said on May 23 following a meeting with ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) officials in Istanbul. 

The former PM's remarks were met with disbelief on social media, with users pointing to the low number of COVID-19 cases in Venezuela at the time of Erkan Yıldırım's visit.