Turkish customs officials prevented 2.5 billion Turkish Liras worth of smuggling in 2017, state-run Anadolu Agency reported, citing Customs and Trade Minister Bülent Tüfenkci.
“Some 2,500 schools, 3,000 hospitals, 160 drones and 57 Altay military tanks could be built with the amount of smuggling that was prevented [last year],” Tüfenkci said.
The items mostly consisted of illegal drugs and trade goods, as well as fuel oil worth 1.2 billion liras, the minister added.
In line with the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) plans for 2023, Turkey is working on expanding its legal foreign trade and diminishing illegal trade, especially in support of terrorism financing, done through Turkey, Tüfenkci said.
Acting in accordance with these plans, the ministry has made a significant investment in customs scanning processes, he said.
“First and foremost, we have invested in customs gates and ports and have bought scanning devices, such as x-rays and backscatters x-rays, as well as facial recognition systems, license plate identification and video surveillance systems,” Tüfenkci told the agency.
“We have become one of the world’s leading customs authorities in terms of technical capacity by investing 270 million liras. Last year, we invested in installing four mobile vehicle/container scanning systems, one semi-mobile vehicle/container scanning system and one train scanning system at the Kapıkule Customs Office [in Istanbul],” Tüfenkci said.
The rate of smuggled cigarettes has also fallen by 8.5 percent, the minister said, adding that the amount of illegal drugs seized increased from 2.7 tons in 2015 to 3.4 tons in 2016 and to 26.4 tons in 2017.
Law enforcement officials caught 775 kilograms of heroin at the Hamzabeyli (Lesovo) Customs Gate at the Turkish-Bulgarian border, reported on May 2, 2017. According to Tüfenkci, this was the largest amount busted at once.
In another case, a Brazilian woman who attempted to smuggle cocaine was stopped at Istanbul Atatürk International Airport. She was arrested on Dec. 5, 2017, after doctors found 580 grams of cocaine stuffed in 52 condoms in her stomach.
According to a police statement three days later, Istanbul police also detained a Nigerian national, who was carrying over five kilograms of cocaine, at the same airport.
In another incident also at Istanbul Atatürk Airport on Jan. 2, law enforcement officials seized more than 34 kilograms of khat, a traditional African herbal stimulant.