35,000 Tons of Stolen Syrian Olive Oil May Already Be in Europe

This figure represents about half of the olive oil that has reportedly smuggled out from Afrin. A new pro-Turkish ally in the occupied Syrian territory denies the oil "was stolen" at all.

By Daniel Dawson
Feb. 28, 2019 10:00 UTC

At least 10,000 tons of stolen Syrian olive oil may already be in Spain, accord­ing to a report from German broad­caster Deutsche Welle and data pub­lished by the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation, a state-run media entity.

Both out­lets also reported that ship­ments of the olive oil, which has been pur­port­edly blended with Turkish oil in cities across the bor­der from Syria then exported to Europe, have been enter­ing Spain for the past 10 months.

Both offi­cials have not explained yet how the oil was bought at a price of 16.50 Turkish lira, while it is being sold at 20 to 25 Turksih lira in Turkey- Vatan Mehmet, inves­tiga­tive reporter at Cypriot Post

In the last 10 months Turkey has exported 37 per­cent of its pro­duc­tion to Spain, which is approx­i­mately 40,000 tons,” Deutsche Welle said on its Arabic-lan­guage new web­site, cit­ing fig­ures pro­vided by the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation. But a quar­ter of this pro­duc­tion comes from the Kurdish [Syrian] region of Afrin.”

In its most recent report, which runs until October 2018, the Spanish government’s cus­toms agency said it was not aware of any Turkish olive oil imports enter­ing the coun­try. No Spanish com­pa­nies have been accused of any wrong­do­ing and many deny import­ing olive oil from Turkey at all.

See Also:Spanish Senators Demand Investigation of Turkish Imports

Neither Deutsche Welle nor the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation responded to requests for com­ment from Olive Oil Times. The Aegean Exporters Association has also denied that any stolen Syrian olive oil is being exported from Turkey.

Turkey’s Minister of Agriculture, Bekir Pakdemirli, on the other hand, has pub­licly acknowl­edged that olive oil was con­fis­cated from Syria, but did not say what became of it.

However, another 25,000 tons of the report­edly stolen and blended Syrian olive oil may also have found its way onto the island of Cyprus, accord­ing to an inves­ti­ga­tion by the Cyprus Post. Cyprus is located slightly more than 60 miles south of Turkey.

Vatan Mehmet, the inves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist who wrote the arti­cle, told Olive Oil Times that he became aware of the story when a local pro­duc­ers asso­ci­a­tion, Zeysan, com­plained about a recent influx of severely under­priced olive oil.

At the time of the imports, Turkish olive oil was sell­ing for about 20 to 25 Turkish lira per liter (about $3.76 to $4.70) on the island. However, the most recent ship­ment was sell­ing for 16.50 Turkish lira per liter ($3.10).

Both Cyprus’ Agriculture Minister Erkut Sahali and the head of the orga­ni­za­tion that imported the oil, Hurrem Tulga, denied that the oil was from Syria. However, nei­ther one could answer why the prices of the imported oil were so low and refused to com­ment fur­ther when pressed by Memet.

Both offi­cials have not explained yet how the oil was bought at a price of 16.50 Turkish lira while it is being sold at 20 to 25 Turkish lira in Turkey,” Memet said. The offi­cials kept their ambigu­ous tone regard­ing the amount to be imported, or the planned amount to be imported from now on.”

Neither Sahali nor Tulga responded to requests for com­ment from Olive Oil Times.

Meanwhile, Nasir Hussu, the head of the Turkish-backed Afrin Chamber of Industry and Trade, told local reporters at a press con­fer­ence that no olive oil has been stolen from Afrin at all.

We sold our olive oil to the Turkish traders at world prices, mostly, the Spain-based price,” Hussu said. We totally reject these claims [that any olive oil was stolen from Afrin].”

Hussu’s insis­tence that local pro­duc­ers have been paid mar­ket prices for their olives comes in the face of con­sid­er­able evi­dence to the con­trary, rang­ing from eye-wit­ness reports from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and other local sources to the afore­men­tioned admis­sions from Pakdemirli.

Separately, both Spanish and Swiss politi­cians are press­ing their gov­ern­ments and the European Commission to fur­ther inves­ti­gate what is going on.

Bernard Guhl, a Swiss Member of Parliament, told Olive Oil Times that he expects answers from his gov­ern­ment about whether any olive oil orig­i­nat­ing from Afrin has entered Switzerland some­time in March.

Carles Mulet García and Jordi Navarrete Pla, two Spanish sen­a­tors, have also for­mally asked their gov­ern­ment and the European Commission to inves­ti­gate Turkish olive oil exports to the European Union. Neither entity has pub­licly stated that they are cur­rently inves­ti­gat­ing the issue.


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