Spanish Senators Demand Investigation of Turkish Imports

The search is on to determine whether stolen Syrian olive oil has been imported into Spain under the guise of 'Made in Turkey.' A criminal investigation could be coming.

Moncloa, the seat of Spanish government.
Feb. 4, 2019
By Daniel Dawson
Moncloa, the seat of Spanish government.

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Two Spanish sen­a­tors have for­mally asked the Government and the European Commission if either entity is aware of any stolen Syrian olive oil cur­rently being imported and sold in Spain.

We will send you the oil as Turkish ori­gin. We send it as if it were made in Turkey.- An anony­mous seller of stolen Syrian olive oil

Earlier this month, numer­ous reports that Turkey was ille­gally smug­gling Syrian olive oil over its bor­der to be pack­aged and sold as Turkish olive oil were made pub­lic. Bekir Pakdemirli, the Turkish Minister of Agriculture, has acknowl­edged that the theft of Syrian olive oil is hap­pen­ing, but declined to com­ment on where the olive oil ended up or how it is being used.

See Also:Olive Oil Fraud

The pair of sen­a­tors – Carles Mulet García and Jordi Navarrete Pla, both of whom are mem­bers Compromís, a Valencian polit­i­cal coali­tion – also tabled a motion ask­ing that the gov­ern­ment turn over sev­eral recent cus­toms reports that would iden­tify when, where and how much Turkish olive oil has been imported to Spain since the smug­gling began.

Valencia is a major port of entry for goods imported to Spain from Turkey and the Middle East.

In order to avoid these abuses and the pos­si­ble com­mer­cial­iza­tion of a stolen oil com­ing from the war in Syria, the coali­tion has demanded reports of imports of olive oil pre­pared by the Customs Department with a break­down by coun­tries of ori­gin and report of the Spanish Consumer Agency, Food Safety and Nutrition on the trace­abil­ity of Turkish oil, which enjoys advan­ta­geous trade agree­ments with the EU,” the coali­tion said in an offi­cial state­ment.


Compromís’s European part­ner, Primavera Europea, has tabled a sim­i­lar motion with the European Commission.

Swiss Member of Parliament, Bernhard Guhl, was the first European politi­cian to have brought the ques­tion of what Switzerland will do if it finds Swiss com­pa­nies are involved in the ille­gal trade before his gov­ern­ment.

Switzerland will only do some­thing if Swiss com­pa­nies are involved in the trade of these stolen olives,” Guhl told Olive Oil Times. But our gov­ern­ment has to answer my ques­tions, so it has to try to get the infor­ma­tion about the olives. I’m still wait­ing for that answer.”

Guhl reck­ons that he will have those answers by March. Mulet García and Navarrete Pla appear to be fol­low­ing suit in Spain.

However, SOIVRE, Spain’s Official Service of Inspection, Surveillance and Regulation of Exports, have said that they do not have the ade­quate tech­nol­ogy to deter­mine the prove­nance of imported olive oil.

Ask the Ministry [of Agriculture] to see if they have any car­bon test to find out the ori­gin of an oil,” a SOIVRE employee told El Público, the Spanish news orga­ni­za­tion that broke the story orig­i­nally. Here we only prac­tice the nec­es­sary ana­lyzes to com­ply with the EU reg­u­la­tions, and among them, there is none to con­firm their prove­nance in a reli­able man­ner.”

Determining the prove­nance of imported olive oil, they said, is up to com­pa­nies to pro­vide in offi­cial doc­u­men­ta­tion that comes in with each ship­ment. This has changed the focus of Mulet García and Navarrete Plas’ efforts to a poten­tial crim­i­nal inves­ti­ga­tion.

One hun­dred per­cent of the imports that enter Spain are sub­ject to dou­ble the tests required by European law,” Rafael Pico Lapuente, the direc­tor of the Spanish Association of the Olive Oil Exporting Industry and Commerce (Asoliva), told El Público.

Regarding the cer­tainty of the ori­gin, the only guar­an­tee is the trace­abil­ity doc­u­ments,” he added. Of course, if there has been some kind of fal­si­fi­ca­tion of cre­den­tials, the respon­si­bil­ity would be the Government of Turkey or the Turkish com­pa­nies that took part in it, and not the Spanish com­pa­nies that hypo­thet­i­cally could acquire with­out their knowl­edge any Syrian prod­uct with a cer­tifi­cate of Turkish ori­gin.”

According to Pico Lapuente, the lat­est report from the Spanish government’s cus­toms office, which cor­re­sponds to October, showed no Turkish oil had been imported into Spain.

We will have to be alert to upcom­ing reports and ask Turkey to com­ply with the leg­is­la­tion,” Pico Lapuente said.

However, there is evi­dence that Turkey is not com­ply­ing with inter­na­tional law and has already sold tins of stolen Syrian olive oil to Cyprus and sev­eral of the Gulf States.

According to an audio record­ing shown to Olive Oil Times and pub­lished by El Público, a buyer who said he was in Saudi Arabia is heard dis­cussing a sale of the stolen Syrian olive oil with a whole­saler in Turkey. The buyer does not men­tion where the final des­ti­na­tion of the olive oil will be.

Olive Oil Times has inde­pen­dently ver­i­fied what is being said in the con­ver­sa­tion.

Is the olive oil really from Afrin?,” the poten­tial buyer asks in Arabic.

Of course it is,” responds the seller. Neither buyer nor seller are iden­ti­fied in the audio by name.

So you will send the olive oil from Turkey?,” the buyer asks. I’m ask­ing you these ques­tions because the imported oil to Europe will be sub­jected to the tax sys­tem.”

We will send you the oil as Turkish ori­gin,” the seller says. We send it as if it were made in Turkey.”

There are no con­firmed cases that stolen Syrian olive oil has yet been imported into any European coun­tries.

Levent Bilginogulları, the head of the Aegean Exporters Association in Turkey, has denied that Turkey has exported any stolen olive oil to Europe at all.

Another part on all of these news arti­cles which are not cor­rect is that the packed oil is being exported to EU coun­tries,” he told Olive Oil Times. Due to eco­log­i­cal rea­sons, olive oil from Syria and Southeastern Turkey is out­side of International Olive Council norms, so it is not pos­si­ble to export them.”

Ferran Barber, the inves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist who broke the news for El Público and has reported on these types of sto­ries for 25 years, told Olive Oil Times that he expects most of the stolen oil will now end up in the Gulf since the story has come to light. However, he did not rule out that the stolen olive oil might have already made it into Spain or Italy.

It is for this rea­son – the fact that nobody really knows what has or has not hap­pened – that Mulet García and Navarrete Pla will con­tinue push­ing for answers from all the rel­e­vant author­i­ties and seek pun­ish­ments for any Spanish or European com­pa­nies that have broke inter­na­tional law.

This infor­ma­tion and these prac­tices con­cern the Spanish olive sec­tor due to their poten­tial effects on its cred­i­bil­ity and their seri­ous­ness regard­ing food safety and con­sumer health,” Mulet García said.

“[It is vital] to avoid abuses or fraud such as those described, which dis­cred­its our country’s world lead­er­ship of olive grow­ing and oil pro­duc­tion,” he added.

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