Former Turkish ambassador confirms he lobbied for Uber in Turkey

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Namik Tan, Turkey’s former ambassador to the United States, confirmed allegations that Uber hired a company jointly run by him and the then head of the Turkish American Business Association for $35,000 a month for three months in 2016 to help in obtaining a license to operate in Turkey, news website T24 reported on Tuesday.

According to files published by Deutsche Welle’s Turkish service on Sunday, Uber secretly lobbied Turkish officials and hired well-connected lobbyists to legitimize its operations in Turkey, with Tan and Ekim’s NT Consultancy being one of them. Alptekin.

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The efforts ultimately failed.

Soon after opening in Turkey in 2014 through a legal loophole, Uber launched an aggressive lobbying campaign to obtain licenses, contacting people with close ties to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, including top government officials such as then-deputy prime minister Ali Babacan and Economy Minister Mehmet Simsek, DW said.

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As part of its lobbying efforts in Turkey, Uber hired NT Consultancy in 2016, paying it a total of $105,000 to help secure a license in the country, a claim confirmed by Tan, who on Tuesday told T24 they had signed a contract three months with Uber, who contacted him through David Plouffe, a senior adviser to then-US President Barack Obama.

“It’s been five years since the aforementioned company shut down. … What’s being said in the news is true. We signed a contract. … And I still believe that Uber should be allowed to operate here. But it didn’t work. The taxi driver lobby in Turkey, which is powerful, objected. We even talked to them and their representatives, to cooperate with them. But we didn’t succeed,” Tan said.

The DW report also quoted Uber officials as saying that “pro-government” Habertürk daily columnist Fatih Altayli had published two articles to present a positive view of Uber, a claim the columnist denied. Altaili told T24 on Tuesday that he had “not written any articles favorable to Uber,” urging people to check the archives to find the articles he wrote.

Uber’s lobbying efforts failed as a local court banned the company’s website in October 2019 for using vehicles with tourist transport licenses for taxi operations. In 2020, another local court lifted the ban on the condition that it cooperate with local taxi drivers, who launched a fierce campaign that pushed the giant out of the local market in the first place.

Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government has consistently sided with taxi drivers in the long-running dispute between Uber and local taxi unions.

Petros Kranias

Source: Capital

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