Customs officers extort bribes from passengers departing from Ashgabat airport

Some groceries are barred from being exported at Ashgabat airport but Turkmen residents travelling overseas told correspondents of “Chronicles of Turkmenistan” that the ban can be easily lifted by paying a customs officer.

On the one hand, shuttle traders exporting Turkmen groceries for further resale in Turkey are pleased as otherwise they would have no income. At the same time, ordinary citizens are negatively affected by extortions from customs officers.

— I travelled to Turkey to visit my son who is doing a course of studies in Ankara, – a female Dashoguz resident says. My neighbor asked to take a package to her daughter, who is a student. At the airport a customs officer asked me to open my bag and saw a couple of flatbreads, samosa and three cans, which had been  given by my neighbor. “You are not allowed to take these out of the country! Put a 100 manat in the bag without being noticed or I will confiscate these items! –he said. I was taken aback and did not know what to do. Will my neighbour believe that I paid this amount to be allowed to take her bag or will she think that I wanted to make money out of her? If the customs officer confiscates the groceries, will my neighbour decide that I have given them to my son? While I was standing there startled, he reiterated his request and reached for the bag in an attempt to take everything out. I hurried to get my wallet out and put the money in the bag. In an instant he took the cash out and handed me over my hand luggage. A 300 gram package of green tea for personal use was confiscated from the woman who was standing behind me. She preferred to leave the package of tea rather than pay a bribe.

Passengers quite often face extortions and rude behavior of airport services staff.

For instance, on 3 January it seemed strange to a customs officer that the female passenger boarding the Istanbul flight was wearing four rings and a gold chain. He escorted her to the office of an NSM officer who, according to the woman, was obviously intoxicated.

— I was accompanied to the room by a customs officer and another man. A representative of the special services was quite arrogant and immediately accused me of gold smuggling or prostitution and demanded that I take off my clothes: “You have hidden a lot of gold items under your clothes! Get undressed!” I started shouting and demanded that a female inspect me. After hearing my shouting two police officers came. This made the man change the tone of his voice and he summoned a female subordinate to take me to another office for inspection. I had no other gold items except rings, earrings and a chain. Despite this, even after the search was over, the “responsible” officer continued to insult me and threatened that I would have serious problems upon arrival as I had refused to obey him. When I was leaving the office, I saw two female passengers waiting in the corridor.

Source – https://www.hronikatm.com/

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