Turkey plans to allow gold imports with few questions asked - report

Turkey is preparing to loosen its rules for importing gold as it seeks to meet demand for the precious metal in one of the world’s largest markets, Bloomberg reported.

The Treasury is preparing a new framework that will allow gold to be brought into the country with few questions asked, Bloomberg said, citing people with knowledge of the matter.

The government is working with Borsa Istanbul, the country’s main stock exchange, on the plan’s details, which will allow people to bring in gold without certification from the standard-bearing London Bullion Market Association, Bloomberg said. Turkey is an affiliate member of the LBMA.

Turkey needs gold to meet retail demand that has climbed following a currency crisis last year. Turkey is also seeking to play on its strengths to establish a regional financial centre in Istanbul to rival other exchanges such as Dubai, focusing on gold swaps as a financial product.

Turkey’s association with gold showed its murkier face after Iranian-Turkish gold trader Reza Zarrab was arrested in the United States in 2016 on charges of using trades in the precious metal to circumvent U.S. economic sanctions on Iran.

Zarrab turned state’s witness in a case against Mehmet Hakan Atilla, a senior official of Turkey’s state-run Halkbank, who was convicted by a Manhattan jury in January 2018 for involvement in the scheme. Zarrab alleged that senior Turkish state officials, including ministers, were also involved, charges strongly denied by the government. Atilla is now head of Borsa Istanbul.